The Star City Games Invitational next weekend at SCGCon will bring Modern back to the top competitive tables. The SCG Modern Open and Classic in Louisville last weekend provide a glimpse of the upcoming metagame. We are finally seeing the new cards from War of the Spark make their mark in Modern, and I’m excited to see what deck wins the Invitational.

So what does SCG Louisville tell us about the Modern metagame? I looked at the top 32 of the  Open and the top 16 of the Classic, and these are the decks that posted more than one copy in that group:

Izzet Phoenix—8 (Classic win)
Dredge—4 (Open win)
Azorius Control—4
Eldrazi Tron—2

The winner’s metagame breaks down into four categories: graveyard decks, big mana decks, aggressive decks, and interactive decks. Let’s start with the winning category.


Dredge is Modern’s premier graveyard deck, and it won the Modern Open in Louisville. The archetype ebbs and flows in strength, often based on whether Golgari Grave-Troll is banned or not. But the printing of Creeping Chill last fall pushed Dredge back to the top of the metagame. As for War of the Spark, the only new addition so far is Blast Zone. The colorless utility sweeper takes pressure off the sideboard to remove troublesome hate cards. Thanks to the life swings from Creeping Chill and board interaction from Conflagrate to deal with opposing creatures, Dredge has the edge over Humans and Izzet Phoenix.

Speaking of Phoenix, it is the other tier one graveyard deck in the format and won the Classic. Phoenix’s best draws involve Faithless Looting discarding a pair of Arclight Phoenix to start attacking as early as turn two. Newer versions of the deck have started playing the full four copies of Pyromancer Ascension alongside a few copies of Noxious Revival to go infinite with Manamorphose and Thought Scour.

The strength of Izzet Phoenix lies with its adaptability. While primarily a graveyard deck, it can make sideboard cards look silly thanks to “traditional” threats like Thing in the Ice and Crackling Drake. Dredge can do this too, by casting Narcomoebas and Prized Amalgams and playing like a Limited deck; but the alternative threats in Izzet Phoenix can win in one or two hits.

Big Mana

For years Tron has been abusing Urza lands to make seven mana on turn three. Now the deck has a powerful new tool: Karn, the Great Creator. Tron’s weakness has traditionally been its sideboard; being limited to colorless cards and light amounts of splash colors makes things tough. Enter Karn, and suddenly your Tron deck has a wish board it can access with amazing consistency, with Mycosynth Lattice the primary target. Combined with Karn’s static ability, Mycosynth Lattice shuts off the activated abilities of all the opponent’s permanents—they can’t even make mana. Other sideboard options include things like Witchbane Orb for Burn and Grafdigger’s Cage for graveyard decks.

Amulet Titan is up to the usual Amulet Titan game plan, making tons of mana very quickly to cast Primeval Titan as early as turn three. Like many other decks, it got some upgrades from already-mentioned War of the Spark cards Blast Zone and Karn, the Great Creator. Karn does the same thing here, often fetching Mycosynth Lattice, but also a copy of Amulet of Vigor stashed in the sideboard. Blast Zone functions similarly to the Engineered Explosives they already played as a tutor target, but lands are even easier to find than artifacts! Also, an active Amulet can help you blow up Blast Zone the turn it enters play tapped.

Titanshift, the other deck that abuses Primeval Titan, doesn’t seem to be doing anything new or exciting but continues to put up top finishes. When opposing big mana decks occupy a lot of the field, having access to Mwonvuli Acid-Moss is big game. Anger of the Gods—often in the main deck—does great work right now against Phoenix, Dredge, and Humans. The combo kill wins against the fair decks too, so the success is likely to continue.


Humans seems to be the only true aggressive strategy left in the format, and it is showing up in big numbers. Classic aggro decks tend to lack ways to interact with your opponent, leaving you to hope you’re fast enough to win the game. Humans doesn’t have this problem. Cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kitesail Freebooter, and Meddling Mage apply an oddly high amount of pressure to the game if you need to cast spells to interact. Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant provide a fast clock when needed. The full package makes for a dangerous combination.


Now it is time for my pick to take down the invitational: Azorius Control. Many people have underrated the archetype for some time, myself included. Over the last few weeks there has been quite a bit of UW popping up on MTGO and the SCG Tour. On paper Azorius Control looks incredibly clunky, sporting things like Cryptic Command, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Supreme Verdict. So why is the deck putting up results?

Azorius Control has all the tools to defeat the top decks of the format. Field of Ruin and counterspells are great for disrupting decks like Tron, Amulet, and Titanshift. Decks like Humans struggle with the one-mana removal spells and wrath effects, which are all intentionally varied to blunt the effectiveness of Meddling Mage. Path to Exile and Detention Sphere are great at dealing with the recursive threats out of Phoenix and Dredge.

War of the Spark also improved the deck a bit. Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler apply pressure while being difficult to answer against the mirror and combo decks alike. Sporting between four and six cantrips to tie everything together, I think Azorius Control is a legitimate contender to have a breakout performance at the Star City Games Invitational!

Catch me back here on Thursdays for more Modern content as we head into a world of Modern Horizons! As always you can catch me on Twitter @RappaciousOne with questions or comments.

Michael Rapp is a Boston-area grinder who started playing competitively in 2014. Loves Modern but plays everything. His favorite card is Thoughtseize has a soft spot for Tarmogoyf. GP Toronto 2019 Champion. Always happy to answer questions or just chat on Twitter or Facebook.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.