Don’t call it a comeback, but I believe that Modern Horizons has ushered in a new era of midrange decks in Modern. We are on the verge of seeing a number of fair decks become good again. Before I get met with comments like, “Fair decks? In my Modern format?!” and other hushed whispers asking if I know what I’m talking about—just hear me out.

Yes, it is true that Modern is currently dominated by one of the most powerful decks we’ve seen in the format since Eldrazi Winter. Yes, it is true that Hogaak is a graveyard-centric deck, which have traditionally been a problem for fair decks. So what changed? These fair decks got some minor upgrades and role players in Modern Horizons, but the major metagame shift so far is that Hogaak condensed the format.

Decks like Izzet Phoenix, Jund, and Azorius Control can be adjusted to beat whatever they want while altering their own game plan very little.  When Hogaak is all over the place and pushing out other random decks that can’t hang with its raw power, being able to easily support maindeck graveyard hate is very valuable and the cost is much lower than it usually is.

Izzet Phoenix

So lets be real for a moment. Izzet Phoenix never really died, but it used to be the “best deck” and now Hogaak has stolen that mantle. Following the release of Modern Horizons, the popularity of Phoenix plummeted as people were clamoring to play Hogaak.

If we’re trying to beat up on a graveyard-based combo deck, maindeck Surgical Extractions and all the cantrips you could want to find them is a good place to start. Knocking your opponent off balance is good only if you can back up that stumble with some quick damage. The Phoenix deck is certainly capable of that, routinely attacking for seven to thirteen damage as early as the third turn.

You probably won’t play against Hogaak every round, though. How does the deck fare in other matchups? Honestly Izzet Phoenix was already quite robust against the open field. The decks that have popped up recently aimed at beating Hogaak are things like Infect, Druid Devastation, and Humans. Phoenix comes ready to beat up on all of those small creature decks, packing tools like Lightning Bolt, Lava Dart, and Thing in the Ice.


Wait, what? Jund? In 2019, good? Surely you’re kidding, right?  Actually no, I think Jund is the best spot it’s been in some time.

As the classic Modern midrange deck, Jund has always been built and will continue being built to beat whatever few decks you want to build it to beat, while having game against everyone else. Bump up the number of Scavenging Ooze a little bit, maybe play some maindeck Nihil Spellbomb, and suddenly the Hogaak matchup isn’t the scariest thing you can sit across from.

That being said, Jund is still a dog in game one. It is certainly winnable if you can curve turn one discard spell into turn two Scavenging Ooze and start applying pressure to both their graveyard and life total.

Jund as always continues to have an excellent sideboard—if you predict the metagame correctly, which thanks to Hogaak is much easier to do. Like most decks Jund has to rely on a stash of sideboard cards to really put the screws to Hogaak. When Jund does hit its sideboard cards and force Hogaak into plan B, it excels at beating the squad of tiny creatures. Discard spells to protect your Leyline of the Void or disrupt their combo, and Tarmogoyf gets naturally large as they toss artifacts and enchantments into their yard with abandon.

Much like Izzet Phoenix, Jund beats up on the small creature-based combo decks that try to prey on Hogaak. Jund’s matchup against Izzet Phoenix used to be really close, but now that the Phoenix decks have replaced Crackling Drake and Pyromancer Ascension with Aria of Flame I think Jund is certainly a favorite to win the match.  Aria of Flame is a very powerful card in slower matchups; but if it gets removed before the Phoenix player can get a lot of value, that can be catastrophic. Luckily Jund has answers in Assassin’s Trophy, Abrupt Decay, and Maelstrom Pulse, and Jund has always had plenty of answers to Thing in the Ice.

Azorius Control

Control decks have traditionally struggled in Modern, in no small part because they lack quick ways to close the game and the field is so wide that you can’t possibly cover everything effectively. At some point something is bound to sneak through your defenses, or you’ll get paired against something you didn’t tune your deck to beat.

Well, remember how Hogaak has compressed the format? That happens to be fantastic for the control decks, because the field of decks they have to prepare becomes much smaller.  Preparing for a smaller field means they you can choose cards that are more narrow but powerful, giving you more game in the matchups you plan to play against. I think that Azorious Control is likely the worst deck of the three against Hogaak, but nevertheless still his game enough to be included on this list.

Surgical Extraction paired with Snapcaster Mage in the maindeck can cripple Hogaak enough that they end up being a bad creature aggro deck. That’s something Azorius Control is ready to beat. Naturally as the control deck lacks somewhat of a real clock, they need to rely on harder hate pieces like Rest in Peace to lock the Hogaak deck out long enough to establish a firm grip on the game.

Azorius Control does very well against the decks trying to beat Hogaak, while also going over the top of the other fair decks trying to exploit the metagame. Arclight Phoenix and Path to Exile have never been the best of friends, and with effective answers to Aria of Flame this one can be tough for the Phoenix deck. Jund versus Azorius Control is a matchup as old as Modern itself, and for almost the entirety of that history Azorius has been favored in the match. Jund usually gets buried in card advantage, lately by Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Snapcaster Mage, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

SCG Pittsburgh

With SCG Pittsburgh coming up this weekend, we get to see tons of Modern in a team format!  I am excited to play in the event, to be down in the trenches seeing how well teams either dominate with Hogaak, or fall to teams prepared to beat the menace itself. The fair decks I’ve mentioned above have a real shot at doing well, given that they have done a good job covering the aggressive/controlling spectrum. I suppose that we will have to wait and see how the games play out to see if the fair decks have actually figured out how to play against the format, or if the graveyard is still too much to handle. Until next time—Mike

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.

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