Modern Times – Change is Good

Up until a few years ago, my mother was still using AOL as her internet service provider. I shit you not. She was using a dial up modem to connect to the internet at 56k speeds. When I came back from college I was furious at the slow speeds. I went from a super fast T1 ethernet connection to a phone cord in the wall. For those of you that never had to use a dial up before, you don’t know true anguish. You think you have it bad now when your application freezes up and fails and you have to download a file or Youtube video again? Well, try spending 4 hours plus to download a 2 minute movie trailer, or to spend entire days getting the MP3s together for a CD or other media. Don’t even get me started on how often I was kicked off of the internet while doing this. Well, I eventually talked my mom into getting a high speed DSL modem, and since then she’s never looked back.

Change is always difficult at first. People can be reluctant, scared of change, but it usually ends up being a positive experience for all parties involved. I myself was reluctant to start the Modern format at first. I made excuses such as “the cards are too expensive”, “I never played with any of the older sets and don’t know the cards at all”, or “nobody else I know plays it”. But recently I’ve had a change of heart. I’ve been playing standard for more than 3 years now, which means that I have quite a lot of cards from the last few sets that are doing nothing but sitting in boxes collecting dust. I’ve also gotten much better at trading and collecting key cards for decks such as lands, and amassed a full playset of each shockland from the Return to Ravnica set. While this has been incredibly useful in my brewing of standard decks, I realize that I only have a few more months until the shock lands add to my ever growing boxes of cards that have rotated out of standard.

I got around to speaking with some of the players in my playgroup here in Nagoya, and they told me that Modern isn’t as difficult to get into as I think. For starters, there are a wide variety of decks you can play and they match just about any budget. My friends further pushed my foot in the door of the format by saying that Shock lands make up the largest cost of the decks (after fetchlands), and that since I had full play sets already, it would be pretty affordable. I played a few of my friends’ decks, started to read up on decks on the internet, and I decided sometime in January to start building my own decks for the format. There were a few reasons for this. Before I thought Modern was just a way for people to play causally with their old cards, but if Japan had a Modern GP each year, it must be pretty important. This summer, Pro Tour Qualifiers will be in the Modern format, so it’s in my best interest to start playing NOW. The learning curve can be steep at first, but if you take your time and learn the format it can be very rewarding. It gives you more chances to compete in various qualifiers, Opens, and all the way up to Grand Prix level. The cards you buy are also better investments in the long run, holding a lot more of their value than the cards you currently play with in standard.

In August, I plan on going to Grand Prix Kobe, where the format is Modern. That gives me roughly 6 months to prepare for it and to learn the format as best as I can. Considering how quickly I improved my skills in Standard, I think that I have more than enough time to get myself at a competitive level before then. Today I’ll be starting a new series of monthly articles about my journey as a player in the Modern format. I’ll be talking about the metagame, events, and anything else related to the format to let you in on what it’s like starting a new format from scratch.  After looking at the cards I had at my disposal, the money I have available to me, and what I think would be fun to play, I have chosen 4 decks. I will be building them, playing them, and changing them during the extent of this series. The decks I have decided to try out are: RW burn, Soul Sisters, BW Tokens, and a brew of my own, Modern Red Devotion.

Soul Sisters

Soul Sisters
75 cards, 15 sideboard
19 Plains
3 Ghost Quarter

22 lands

4 Ajani’s Pridemate
1 Archangel of Thune
4 Soul Warden
2 Ranger of Eos
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Soul’s Attendant
4 Serra Ascendant
4 Squadron Hawk

27 creatures

4 Path to Exile
3 Spectral Procession
4 Honor of the Pure

11 other spells

4 Rest in Peace
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Suppression Field
4 Stony Silence
2 Oblivion Ring

15 sideboard cards

The deck is known as Soul Sisters because the decks main proponents are Soul Warden and Soul Attendant. The idea behind the deck is to cast cheaply costed creatures in order to gain life extremely quickly. You want to gain life in order to activate Ajani Pridemate’s triggered ability, turning him into a massive creature in order to beat your opponent senseless with. The life gain in this deck will also quickly transform your 1/1 Serra Ascendant into a 6/6 flying lifelink creature after a few turns. Ranger of Eos lets you grab 2 one casting cost creatures (usually 2 Serra Ascendants), Matyr of Sands keeps your life high by tripling the amount of life gained for showing white cards from your hand, and Squadron Hawk lets you fetch all of his friends the turn he comes into play so you always have something to play in order to activate the Soul Sisters’ triggers. This is a rather stock build,  but I decided to throw in an Archangel of Thune as an added anthem to boost my creatures power whenever I gained life. It seems logical to have in the deck, but with only 22 lands it might be difficult to cast (I’ll be testing this out as I play with the deck). 

The deck has removal in the form of Path to Exile, Honor the Pure to boost the power level of your otherwise weak creatures, as well as Spectral Procession to put more bodies on the field (good for life gain and blocking). As for the sideboard, I can’t really make any comments on it yet because I have no idea what the metagame is like here in Nagoya and what cards to side in for which match ups. I’m pretty much just using what players online are using in their decks that aren’t out of my price range. As I play more, I’ll be sure to update it and describe how to sideboard.

Soul Sisters is relatively cheap to build (after trades and bargain hunting, I’ve only spent about $30 on it. I still lack most of the rares though) and it appeals to me because it is an easy to play, straight forward deck. You play creatures, you gain life, you attack, you gain life, etc. It’s a simple white weenie beat down deck. As a beginner in modern, this is a deck that I can put together easily and start to play with almost right away. There are certainly more powerful decks out there, but for somebody that doesn’t have the ability to spend $600+ on a deck at the moment or doesn’t want to wait 3-4 months to put all the pieces together for a tier 1 deck, then Soul Sisters might be worth trying out. 

RW Burn

RW Modern Burn
75 cards, 15 sideboard
2 Battlefield Forge
4 Arid Mesa
8 Mountain
2 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry

20 lands

4 Vexing Devil
4 Goblin Guide

8 creatures

4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Boros Charm
4 Rift Bolt
4 Shard Volley
4 Searing Blaze
4 Skullcrack

32 other spells

2 Slagstorm
3 Molten Rain
2 Blood Moon
2 Torpor Orb
2 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Wear // Tear
2 Relic of Progenitus

15 sideboard cards

There are quite a few players that despise burn decks. They call it a deck without skill, based entirely on the luck of the draw, but I say, is that no different from playing an aggro deck? Aggro decks play hard and play fast, forcing you to have an answer for their threats. If you don’t have an answer, or you miss your land drops, you lose. The same for them. If they don’t draw their creatures or mana flood, they lose. The deck is as skill based as any others, especially with only 20 land. Burn decks are all about dropping your opponent to 0 life before they can stabilize or take control of the game. You should be casting a burn spell each turn and not letting up until your opponent is dead. Knowing when to mulligan a hand is incredibly important for Burn. If you keep the wrong burn cards in certain match ups it could spell your doom, and knowing which burn spells to cast when is also crucial. I’ve been able to play test with it a little bit with friends, and so far I like it. The core of the deck, the burn spells, are all relatively cheap to purchase. The Land base and creatures, however, are not. 

One of the main reasons for choosing this deck was again the cost. Quite a few of the cards are still in standard and easily purchased or traded for (Boros Charm, Skull Crack, Sacred Foundry). I had many of the cards already from past sets such as Lightning Bolt, Vexing Devil and Clifftop Retreat, so it was only a matter of collecting odds an ends at Mishimaya (the Mom and Pop MTG store here in Nagoya). I’ve spent about $40 on putting together, and I’m almost done thanks to trades and bargain shopping. I’ll forego the playset of Arid Mesa fetchlands at the moment (they make up roughly 50% of the deck’s cost), and instead use cheaper substitutes such as Battlefield Forge and Clifftop Retreat. 

In my opinion, Burn is more competitive than Soul Sisters, so I will probably be testing more with this deck in the initial stages of my modern career. 

BW Tokens

BW tokens
75 cards, 15 sideboard
1 Caves of Koilos
2 Windbrisk Heights
1 Ghost Quarter
3 Swamp
2 Vault of the Archangel
4 Plains
4 Marsh Flats
4 Godless Shrine
2 Isolated Chapel

23 lands

2 Hero of Bladehold
3 Tidehollow Sculler

5 creatures

4 Lingering Souls
4 Intangible Virtue
3 Zealous Persecution
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Thoughtseize
4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession
3 Honor of the Pure

32 other spells

2 Sin Collector
3 Auriok Champion
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
2 Duress
3 Stony Silence

15 sideboard cards

Probably the strongest of all the decks I have put together so far, BW tokens is no joke. It has the ability to put out an insane amount of tokens, has access to some great removal (Thoughtseize AND Path to Exile), its anthems make every token a threat, and with the unbanning of Bitterblossom, the archetype is only going to get stronger in the coming months. I was lucky to have quite a few of these cards already since I started to play MTG heavily in the Scars of Mirrodin block, so my investment in it so far has been minimal. Tokens in its purest form is a swarm deck. You want to put out as many tokens as you can as fast as you can before your opponent can put up any kind of defense. In games of attrition where the player with the most creatures win, BW tokens has the advantage. I look forward to playing with this deck and investing in the pieces I need in order to make it competitive. Again, the lands make up the majority of the deck’s price (about $180 of it), but otherwise the deck is rather affordable.

Modern R/w Devotion 

Modern Red Devotion
75 cards, 15 sideboard
4 Arid Mesa
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
8 Mountain
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

24 lands

4 Kargan Dragonlord
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Fanatic of Mogis
4 Burning-Tree Emissary

24 creatures

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Koth of the Hammer
2 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Path to Exile

12 other spells

2 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Boros Charm
2 Blood Moon
2 Wear // Tear
2 Banefire
3 Vexing Shusher

15 sideboard cards

This is my first try at building a modern deck on my own. I got the idea for this deck after the success of my Nykthos based red devotion deck in standard. I started with the core of Burning Tree Emissary, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Fanatic of Mogis, and from there I looked for strong red cards that would give me both devotion as well as a place to use all that access mana after a few turns. I have no idea how it will do against the Modern metagame, but it looks like a lot of fun to play. You drop a Figure of Destiny on turn 1, a Kargan Dragonlord on turn 2, then on turn 3 you play a Nykthos and a Burning-Tree Emissary, tap the Shrine to Nyx for 5 devotion mana, then use that to level up your Dragonlord to a 4/4 Flyer and your FoD to a 2/2. If your creatures survive, they become exponentially stronger each turn. You might not even need the Fanatic of Mogis as a a finisher, but it’s still a solid card in this deck. Demigod of Revenge lets you recur all of the dead ones in your graveyard, possibly doubling or tripling your devotion count that turn, and Koth of the Hammer acts like an extra Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, supercharging your creatures for a massive attack. I’m hoping the removal package is good enough; Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile let you take care of a threat at instant speed, and Bonfire of the Damned acts as a boardwipe if you miracle it or cast it through your devotion. 

This deck has some potential I think, but it will take a lot of play testing to unlock it. Going GR might open up more choices such as Domri Rade (good for card draw or removal) or Xenagos, the Reveler (much  better mana acceleration than Koth of the Hammer). Other cards I’d like to test out are Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, but if you can think of other cards that would work well in this build, I’d like to hear your suggestions. 


Baby Steps


Change is good, but you can’t do things too quickly. This weekend I plan on taking part in my first ever modern tournament, and I don’t plan on doing too well. Don’t get me wrong, I will try my best, but this is a new format to me and I’m going to be making a lot of mistakes against high level opponents. I have to start somewhere though, and I’m definitely looking forward to using cards that haven’t been in a deck of mine for a very long time.  The learning curve is going to be steep at first, but hopefully these 4 decks will help me gain a lot of experience in the format so that I’ll be ready at the end of summer to take on a Modern Grand Prix and a Modern PTQ season. If you’re looking to get into modern, I recommend checking out the MTG Salvation forums for deck ideas and deck lists. It’s been a great source of information for me so far, especially since Modern tournaments are so few and far between where I live. 

I’ll be back this weekend with more standard metagame information, a few more deck ideas, and updates to the ones I’ve been using, so be sure to check back by Sunday. I know some of you play modern out there, so if you’ve experimented with any of the decks I’ve talked about today and would like to offer your thoughts on them, I’d like to hear about your experiences. Thanks for reading and see you next time!