Modern rewards repetition. Given that Modern has a million viable decks, with no tier one strategy composing more than 9% of the metagame,* it’s near impossible to pick a deck tuned to beat a majority of the field. I’ve always enjoyed this aspect of the format as it supposes that any reasonable deck has a chance to take down a tournament. Pilot skill, and familiarity with other decks in the format, is usually more important than picking the “right” deck.

Not many people would argue that Merfolk is the strongest deck in Modern. It’s not by most metrics, but the deck recently won GP Los Angeles because Simon Slutsky is a great Merfolk player. Matchups are important, but Slutsky was able to best Affinity in the finals which is a horrific matchup. Slutsky also took down the tournament with hideous non-matching white bordered basics, which I imagine is also a testament to his playskill.

I’ve talked about repetition before. The reason I bring it up here is because I can’t decide on a deck and have done an abysmal job of playing a single deck for more than a two week span. My problem is that there isn’t a deck I love playing right now, that I want to dedicate my time to learning. Back in the Bloom Titan days, I had a deck that was powerful, skill intensive, and a blast to play but then Wizards had to go and swing the banhammer down on Summer Bloom. A totally fair card in my opinion. Regardless, since then I’ve built upwards of seven decks, but none of them feel quite right. Here are my options and opinions, I’m hoping to talk myself into something by the end of this.

  • #1—Ad Nauseam

Andreas Ganz - 1st Place - GP Charlotte

Lands (22)
Darkslick Shores
Gemstone Mine
Seachrome Coast
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment

Creatures (5)
Laboratory Maniac
Simian Spirit Guide

Spells (35)
Ad Nauseam
Angel’s Grace
Lightning Storm
Pact of Negation
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Spoils of the Vault
Lotus Bloom
Pentad Prism
Phyrexian Unlife
Sideboard (15)
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Hurkyl’s Recall
Leyline of Sanctity
Pact of Negation
Slaughter Pact

Pros: I love the fact that Ad Nauseam is a consistent combo deck, filled to the gills with deck manipulation (SCRY LANDS!), that can go off at instant speed. Unlike Storm, KCI, or Instant Reanimator, once you’re going off it’s basically impossible to fizzle. Casting Angel’s Grace plus Ad Nauseam gives you access to your entire deck, two win conditions (one that works even if an opponent has infinite life or a Leyline of Sanctity), and three free counterspells to back them up. Not only is the combo super sweet, but given that the deck has four Angel’s Grace and four Phyrexian Unlife it has game against damage-based aggro decks that are as fast, or faster, than Ad Nauseam. Casting Phyrexian Unlife against burn just feels good to me.

Cons: Aside from the fact that the deck is difficult to play optimally and that I have never optimally sideboarded a game in my life, the deck has trouble with targeted discard and can basically never beat Infect. I know I said that knowing the deck is more important than having a positive win percentage against the field, but it feels really bad to sit across from Infect and know, in your brain’s heart, that the game is about to shift into shittyness. Against Jund, you can bring in Leyline of Sanctity but I feel like I was spoiled by Bloom Titan which could just out value Jund by chaining together Primeval Titans and Thragtusks.

  • #2 Elves

Karstinen - MTGO Constructed League

Lands (18)
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Razorverge Thicket

Creatures (34)
Devoted Druid
Dwynen’s Elite
Elvish Archdruid
Elvish Mystic
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Heritage Druid
Llanowar Elves
Mirror Entity
Nettle Sentinel
Reclamation Sage

Spells (8)
Chord of Calling
Collected Company
Lead the Stampede
Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Dauntless Escort
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Elvish Champion
Fracturing Gust
Gaddock Teeg
Hushwing Gryff
Kataki, War’s Wage
Lead the Stampede
Magus of the Moon
Mark of Asylum
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Phyrexian Revoker

Pros: Every time I pick up Elves, I’m impressed at how good it is. Karstinen’s list is both explosive and consistent with a utility toolbox of creatures to get off of Chord/Collected Company. The deck matches up reasonably well with much of the format and can do a little grinding with the midrange/control decks thanks to Lead the Stampede.

Cons: I know this is a cop-out but I own zero Horizon Canopy, don’t want to buy them, and don’t have a close friend to borrow from. I know I could play the straight GB version of the deck, or cut some number of Horizon Canopy but, well, I don’t want to. I have no problem playing a tier two deck, but I always want to play the best version of whatever deck I’m playing. I could play the combo version of the deck, with Beck and Cloudstone Curio, but I’m a bit skeptical of that deck and don’t want to play a tournament where I have to tap and untap Nettle Sentinel hundreds of times.

  • #3 Grixis

Michael Majors - 16th Place - SCG Open Milwaukee

Creatures (9)
Snapcaster Mage
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet

Spells (27)
Ancestral Vision
Slaughter Pact
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lightning Bolt
Seal of Fire
Serum Visions
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Kolaghan’s Command
Lands (24)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Cascade Bluffs
Creeping Tar Pit
Darkslick Shores
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Slaughter Pact
Anger of the Gods
Fulminator Mage
Izzet Staticaster
Goblin Dark-Dwellers

Pros: I would get to play Kalitas in two formats. While I have shied away from playing attrition-based Magic in Modern, I do have to say that something about Grixis appeals to me. I like the value based creatures, the removal suite, and the fact that you can play counter magic and not have the awkward tension between Path to Exile and Mana Leak. Post board you have even more removal and countermagic with a sweet one-of Goblin Dark-Dwellers for all the value which I also enjoy.

Cons: Majors, who has played his fair share of Grixis, wrote an article after this 16th place finish called “The Issues with Grixis Control” where he talks about some of the big pictures issues the deck faces. The most important thing I got from Majors is this, “You aren’t going to get any free wins, the games are going to be hard, and the majority of the time you’ll be forced to give up playing as the control deck to start sneaking in points with Creeping Tar-Pit and deploying “Ambush ViperSnapcaster Mages to pressure opponents.”

  • #4 & #5 The Dark Horses (Soul Sisters or RG Valakut)

Rvng - MTGO Constructed League

Lands (22)
Flagstones of Trokair
Ghost Quarter
12 Plains
Windbrisk Heights

Creatures (25)
Ajani’s Pridemate
Martyr of Sands
Ranger of Eos
Serra Ascendant
Soul Warden
Soul’s Attendant
Squadron Hawk

Spells (13)
Path to Exile
Return to the Ranks
Spectral Procession
Honor of the Pure
Sideboard (15)
Celestial Flare
Ethersworn Canonist
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Sundering Growth
Wrath of God

Daniel Hendrickson - 3rd Place - SCG Indianapolis

Lands (25)
Arid Mesa
Cinder Glade
Stomping Ground
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Wooded Foothills

Creatures (12)
Oracle of Mul Daya
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder

Spells (23)
Lightning Bolt
Search for Tomorrow
Summoner’s Pact
Through the Breach
Oath of Nissa
Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Crumble to Dust
Grafdigger’s Cage
Obstinate Baloth
Reclamation Sage
Relic of Progenitus

Pros: Yeah, look, I know these decks are way different. I’m grouping them together here because I have an irrational love for gaining life and Primeval Titan. I’ve always felt that Soul Sisters was an underrated deck and one with game against a significant portion of the meta. As for this RG Valakut deck, I’m not sure what to expect, this deck did well at a tournament a month ago, and I haven’t seen much of it at all on the dailies ever since. I’d like jam some games with it, but it’s hard to dedicate time to it when I have four other decks I’m considering. Someone just tell me it’s good or bad.

Five decks, that’s where I am right now. I’m hoping I can decide one way or another in the next few weeks before Modern PPTQ Season, otherwise I think it’s going to be a rough summer.

* looking at data from the previous two months

In terms of Magic, Shawn Massak is a Modern enthusiast, with a penchant for tier two decks, counterspells, and pre Eighth Edition frames. In terms of life, Shawn lives in Brighton, MA where he works as an employment coordinator for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and spends his free time reading comics, complaining about pro-wrestling, and wishing his apartment allowed dogs as pets.

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