I don’t know what to play in Modern anymore.

Now, this isn’t one of those complainer articles where I whine over why I can’t get it together and just ‘like’ the Modern format. I love Modern. It’s definitely my favorite constructed format… but my heart is just lost. I can’t figure where I stand lately. It’s like a puzzle, and at the entrance is the banning of Birthing Pod.

I can’t convince anyone that Pod was a fair card in the format. It was absurd in power level against most decks. And for a time, it was a rather difficult deck to pilot. Pod also had weaknesses. Scapeshift and Tron were its natural predators; I don’t think I ever won a match against either strategy.

So when they banned Pod, I took some time playing around with and amassing the cards I’d need for the blue decks I wanted to try. My dedication to playing Birthing Pod was wholehearted and emblazoned. I owned that deck as an extension of myself, and ground out the reason for every card being in the deck. I meditated on it at night, goldfished it with coffee in the morning, called friends for reps and spent afternoons again and again running a single matchup. It was a love affair, and one I was happy to have. While I wasn’t devastated as some others i’ve read about… I knew I had to finally exercise the same commitment to another deck. But which one? Which one?

I started by building Abzan. Er, Junk. You know… Tarmogoyfs, Lingering Souls, Siege Rhinos. It had just performed well at the recent modern Pro Tour and I was, obviously, familiar with the decks color palette. But, well, it was boring. The deck just didn’t excite me the was Pod reminded me of RecSur (that’s Recurring Nightmare / Survival of the Fittest) so I started building the blue decks. I bought Snapcaster Mages, Vendilion Cliques, Cryptic Commands, built a few different variants on Splinter Twin. I built Grixis variants. I built Zoo. Recently, I built Jund. Regardless of how I did with them, I was more playing for the feel of the deck in my hands. Which deck would sparkle the same way my first foray into modern sparkled in my eyes.

But none of them did it. I didn’t feel any love, or commitment, anymore. I was climbing a hill to nowhere. So what the hell is wrong? Why dont I love anything?

The first thing some of you might say to me is — “Hey Derek, you know there’s that card Collected Company, right? Just build Podless Pod!” — and my answer is that while it’s a similar deck in that it plays many of the same cards… it’s not anywhere close in power level. Tutoring for one mana per turn at the cost of a card and a few life is slightly different than looking at the top six cards of my library. Even at instant speed. And even with the same basic creature base I simply don’t like the deck or the strategy. Nothing about it excites me.

Solutions I have considered are based on a few theories I once talked about with regards to Modern.

1. Know Thy Deck

2. Know Thy Matchups

Remember that? I wrote that shit a year ago when disucssing how to approach Modern. I have broken both of these pieces of scripture since I delved into the format post-ban. I don’t play any of these decks enough to really know them. I don’t play the matchups I need to play enough to understand them.

Take this Tuesday, where I played Jund. For those interested, here is the list.


Creatures (14)
Grim Lavamancer
Dark Confidant
Scavenging Ooze
Olivia Voldaren
Huntmaster of the Fells
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Spells (22)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lightning Bolt
Abrupt Decay
Kolaghan’s Command
Maelstrom Pulse
Liliana of the Veil
Lands (24)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Raging Ravine
Verdant Catacombs
Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Blood Crypt

Sideboard (15)
Fulminator Mage
Kitchen Finks
Huntmaster of the Fells
Grim Lavamancer
Ancient Grudge
Anger of the Gods

Round two I played against Affinity. I made a land fetch mistake game one, and sideboarded without confidence for game two, where I missed sequencing correctly and lost the match in 2 games. I knew I made a number of mistakes throughout the night, but having next to zero experience playing against Affinity — only one person I know plays the deck regularly — I didn’t understand what mattered most in the matchup. My opponent and I discussed it after the match, where he gave me advice on what to bring in, how to better sequence my threats and removal. He was kind, and informative. But I was too dizzy with disappointment to let it all sink in right there. It really throttled me, the not knowing. The loose commitments.

What good is any of that information if I don’t sleeve up Jund again next week? How can I make incremental progress with a deck that rewards tight play if I don’t spend the time tightening up my play with the deck?

Second in my ponderings over my conundrum is perhaps simpler. Play a different style of deck altogether! Perhaps my malaise is the result of the need for severe change. For finding an aggressive strategy, or a pure control strategy, and feeling that out. There are a lot of amazing aggressive decks in the format — burn, affinity, merfolk, zoo — that can shake up my perception of Modern. Too often when we get stuck into the same play patterns, the same routines, we sacrifice the ability to play different decks with playing a single deck exceptionally well. So the question for myself is now: do I maintain my course, keep playing similar deck styles, and find the one to commit to? Or do I keep shaking it up and seeing which one ignites my passion the way Birthing Pod did over a  year ago?

One goes against my mantra over modern completely. One goes with it. My instinct says Kill Your Darlings. Try something new. Perhaps it’s time.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.


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