How do you choose a deck to play in Modern? It’s an important question, and a good one to analyze as we start the new year. When looking at the Modern format, people generally subscribe to one of three philosophies: master one deck, learn a few decks and make decisions based on the metagame, or switch decks often in order to play the “best” option each weekend. Each option has lead to many successes, and there are pros and cons to each option.

Master One Deck

This option is particularly appealing because Modern rewards you for having a deep understanding of your own deck. You can also play your “pet decks” or favorite decks all the time. This allows you to play decks like Ad Nauseam until the day you die, no matter how often your friends tell you not to.


  • Modern is an incredibly diverse format, which can be hard to metagame effectively for. Often, you can predict the decks you are most likely to see at a tournament because of the metagame, however you will likely see a handful of Tier 2-3 or other obscure strategies. It is easier to be prepared for up to twenty matchups with one deck instead of being prepared for that many matchups with a handful of decks.
  • You have more free time! Learning a new deck every couple of weeks takes a decent amount of time if you want to become proficient with each deck. If you spend all your time mastering one deck, you can use all that free time to learn the micro-interactions of your deck, more complex interactions your deck has between various matchups, or even practice a different format. You can look at a handful of players who get consistent results with one deck to realize mastering one deck can lead to numbers of successes, like Ryan Ferries and his numerous finishes with Modern Burn, including a second place finish at the SCG Indianapolis Open last season.
  • You get to play what you like. One of the reasons Modern is such a popular format is that you can reasonably play whatever you like and do well (to an extent). This often includes many decks that aren’t consistently Tier 1 decks. Becky Adlman has been an advocate for Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks (Titanshift/Scapeshift) for a long time and has the results to back it up, with her most recent finish being third place in SCG Charlotte last season.


  • You’re deck isn’t going to be good for every tournament. There are many times in Modern where the metagame shifts dramatically and can throw your Tier 1 deck deep into the second or third tier. For example, Modern Burn was a very good deck early last season, but a couple weeks later the printing of Creeping Chill and reignition of Dredge made the deck worse. You might accidentally be hindering your success by playing the same deck every weekend.
  • People start to know what you are playing. Obviously, there is a small chance that this will make a difference in your games, however the possibility is still there. Your opponent knowing what you are on gives a slight advantage towards the hands they should keep or how they should play the match.

Play the “Best” Option each Weekend

This option is appealing to people who go to a large number of Modern tournaments and want to react to the changing metagame to put themselves in the best position to do well deck-wise. Selecting the “correct” deck each weekend is one step you can take to put yourself at an advantage for the tournament.


  • You are putting yourself in a good position to do well each week. At times, you can figure out which deck(s) will be a good call on any given weekend. If you practice and become skilled in the deck, metagaming for a given weekend can be extremely beneficial. For example, Evan Whitehouse has numerous SCG results with various decks including Scapeshift, Grixis Death’s Shadow, Bant Spirits, and Dredge.
  • You get to play a lot of decks and increase your deck diversity. Playing a new deck each week can be seen as a puzzle you need to solve. You have to learn a completely new deck and practice until you are proficient with it. This may be very difficult or time consuming, but many people find this fun. Additionally, expanding your range of decks can help you grow as a player by understanding how multiple decks work on a deep level. This can help you improve your own gameplay and well as your understanding of the format as a whole.


  • You might not be proficient in a new deck each weekend. Modern is a format that rewards knowing your deck, therefore simply picking up the best deck without knowing it well enough won’t necessarily give you the results you’re looking for. This is especially true if you are picking up a deck that isn’t like any other deck you’ve played before.
  • Learning a new deck can take a lot of time. You have to dedicate a lot of time to learning a new deck and it’s matchups in addition to typical practice with the deck. You can get away with less practice/learning if you’re switching between similar decks such as Humans and Spirits, but if you’re switching from Tron to Grixis Death’s Shadow, you need more time to get accustomed to your new deck.

Learn a Few Decks

This is the philosophy I personally prescribe to. This is an option that is a “happy middle” between the two previous ways to approach Modern. I tend to stick to one deck that I know fairly well, and then I switch decks if there is a clear “correct” choice for a weekend or if my usual deck is clearly at a disadvantage for the weekend.


  • You have a lot of flexibility. If you have two or three decks you are proficient with, you have a lot of options when it comes to deck selection for a tournament.  You won’t have to spend time every week learning a new deck, but you aren’t stuck with a single deck for every tournament.
  • It’s the best of both worlds. You get to become an expert at your most played deck, while being able to switch things up when the metagame calls for it. John Phillip Whetstone demonstrated this philosophy last season, initially putting up lots of results with Burn, but then switching to Infect when Dredge became popular. Being able to switch decks when necessary helps prevent poor performance by sticking with a single deck.


  • The cons here are mostly the same as the cons of the previous two, but to a lesser extent. It’ll take more time to learn a couple decks than one, but it will take less time than learning a new deck every week. It might be harder to become proficient at a couple decks than one, but it will be easier to become proficient at a couple than a new deck every week.
  • If you are playing similar decks, or decks that have similar matchups, the metagaming option of this strategy is pointless. For instance, if you play two graveyard decks for instance, you won’t have a good option when graveyard decks are poorly positioned in the metagame.

While all these philosophies have led to success, it’s up to you to determine which is most comfortable and beneficial to you. Each has its own pros and cons, and it’s largely a preference thing from person to person. Doing what makes you the most comfortable and whatever is the most feasible is likely to give you the most success with enough determination and practice.

Ally Warfield is a Magic grinder and personality. She hosts the VClique podcast and is an up-and-coming grinder with an impressive range in terms of archetype selection. You can find her on Twitter @ArcticMeebo.

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