Another year of Magic is in the books as 2021 comes to a close. Modern’s had quite a lot of shakeups, from some rather large bans to Modern Horizons 2 revolutionizing the format, so not only do I have Modern Power Rankings for this week, but I also have them for the year!
Rakdos is a simple and effective deck which combines discard with excellent threats and removal. Lurrus of the Dream-Den pays you off for playing the most efficient cards in the format, which is what you want to do anyway! Keep an eye on Tourach, Dread Cantor, which is highly effective in a format with so much white removal. You really can’t go wrong with Rakdos.
Indomitable Creativity is a powerful card which has more or less spawned its own archetype. Using Treasures, Hard Evidence and other creature tokens as fuel, you can build a deck where the only actual creature card is a game-winning threat, which Creativity will put onto the battlefield for you each and every time. Once the shell is in place, you can take this deck in whatever direction you please, with players opting for a variety of simple, deadly threats like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Serra’s Emissary or Archon of Cruelty.
There’s no denying that the cycle of mythic rare “Pitch Elementals” are among the most powerful cards from Modern Horizons 2. Combining them with Risen Reef and Ephemerate makes Elemental Tribal one of the best value decks in Modern.
I still really like the tribal Elementals deck, but it’s no longer the most popular way to use Omnath, Locus of Creation.
Mill still packs a punch, and circumvents most of Modern’s common defensive measures. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter is extremely powerful against decks using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. I don’t love playing Mill against all of the Ragavan decks, but it does have a number of highly favorable matchups among decks on this list.
I’ve been playing a lot of Yawgmoth lately, and I find it to be both fun and highly competitive. The matchup against removal-heavy decks like Omnath, Izzet Murktide and the various Lurrus strategies feels close to 50/50. But I honestly believe that Yawgmoth is one of the few decks in Modern that has a reliably positive matchup against Colossus Hammer.
This deck uses undying creatures with Yawgmoth’s sacrifice ability to generate massive value, and eventually go infinite. I particularly like that it’s a good home for Ignoble Hierarch and Grist, the Hunger Tide, which are great cards that don’t get quite enough love.
Among the many, many ways to play with cheap red creatures, the single-minded strategy of lighting the opponent on fire is still a great one. A huge appeal of Burn is the ability to play with Eidolon of the Great Revel, which is an absolute beating for all of the Mishra’s Bauble and Expressive Iteration players out there right now.
It’s usually a bad idea to show up to a Modern event without some combination of Ragavan, Urza’s Saga, Shardless Agent or the “Pitch Elementals.” But Burn is one of the excellent exceptions to this rule.
9. Amulet Titan
Amulet Titan was arguably the most successful deck of MTG Vegas, since it was the only archetype to put two players into the top 8. Primeval Titan has historically been one of the defining cards (and decks) of Modern, and it never stays down for long.
8. Living End
Living End has dropped a few spots compared to its glory days, but I still think it’s an excellent deck. It’s proven that it can stand the test of time; and I had a great experience when I played with it myself.
Living End is beautiful in its simplicity. Cycling creatures comprise most of the deck, allowing you to fill your graveyard while finding your key cards with impressive consistency. Because the namesake card is the only nonland with mana value less than three, cascade spells like Shardless Agent, Violent Outburst, Ardent Plea or Demonic Dread will always find it and leave you with a dominant board position.
7. Jund Sagavan
Jund Sagavan uses Urza’s Saga, Mishra’s Bauble, Ragavan, Wrenn and Six and Lurrus as a companion. Saga is particularly good when paired with Wrenn and Six, and as an extra card type for Tarmogoyf. As the quintessential “good cards” archetype, Jund has finally found a way to cram all of the most important, format defining Modern cards into one deck!
I think everyone has known for a while that Death’s Shadow has potential. It won the Starcitygames.com Invitational in the hands of Corey Baumeister, but even after that, it took a while for it to reach its full potential. Now, Grixis Shadow is continuously climbing the rankings. It seems like you can’t click on a Modern event these days without seeing one or more copies of Grixis Death’s Shadow in the top 8.
Azorius Control isn’t the flashiest strategy in Modern, but it’s still highly effective, with very strong card quality. For those who enjoy a good old fashioned long game with counterspells, this can still be the deck for you.
At this stage in the format, it’s rare to see a lot of churn near the very top of the rankings. However, Temur Cascade has jumped Azorius Control for this installment, after putting up a handful of strong finishes. This has been a highly effective strategy throughout 2021, and you can’t go wrong choosing it.
This deck uses Shardless Agent and other cascade spells to hit Crashing Footfalls for a massive, underpriced board presence. It circumvents the “no cheap cards” restriction by playing cards like Brazen Borrower, Fire // Ice and Force of Negation.
I think Modern’s top three strategies are fairly solidified at this point, and multicolor Omnath decks are certainly one of them.
One popular version is a monstrosity featuring Omnath, Locus of Creation, “Pitch” Elementals and Ephemerate, with either Kaheera, the Orphanguard or Yorion, Sky Nomad as a companion. I’ve taken to calling this deck Omnath Pile, since it has that “trade-binder” look of simply jamming a bunch of powerful cards together.
For those wondering, I use the presence or absence of dedicated tribal cards like Risen Reef and Flamekin Harbinger to distinguish between “Elementals” and this more general category of four or five-color Omnath decks.
There’s also a lot more you can do with multicolor strategies in Modern, including casting Bring to Light for Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor or a lethal Scapeshift. You can also just grind people out with Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
Murktide Regent is an extremely powerful creature, and is one of the most compelling reasons to give up on Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion for this type of strategy. Compared to U/R Prowess, this deck is shifted more heavily towards blue and plays counterspells.
Colossus Hammer remains the deck to beat in Modern. This is a mono-white or Orzhov Equipment deck which has, in addition to brutal explosive potential, awesome sideboard cards like Sanctifier en-Vec. It’s multidimensional and difficult to attack. Colossus Hammer is the best home for Urza’s Saga, which is one of the most powerful cards from Modern Horizons 2.
As we close out 2021, let’s take a look back at the decks which have had the biggest footprint on the history of Modern. This ranking combines the first half of the year, prior to the release of Modern Horizons 2, and the second half, which was dominated by Ragavan and friends. We even had two months of a wild west format at the beginning of the year which featured Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Field of the Dead, Mystic Sanctuary, Simian Spirit Guide and Tibalt’s Trickery.
15. Charbelcher & Oops All Spells
With the release of Zendikar Rising’s double-faced land spells, two brutally fast combo decks came into existence. By playing zero traditional lands, these decks took advantage of the fact that cards like Agadeem’s Awakening and Shatterskull Smashing won’t register as lands while in the library. Goblin Charbelcher became a one-shot kill and Balustrade Spy could self-mill the entire library, facilitating a number of different possible wins.
While these decks still exist on the fringes of the format, they were extremely powerful before the banning of Simian Spirit Guide.
14. Tibalt’s Trickery
Tibalt’s Trickery was one of the wildest decks I can ever remember playing. The configuration of the deck was as follows: lands, four Simian Spirit Guides, eight cascade spells, a few copies of Tibalt’s Trickery and as many “I win” cards as possible, such as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Brilliant Ultimatum.
You’d cast Violent Outburst, which would cascade into Trickery, which would counter Violent Outburst. Then you’d get a random spell which you’d hope was something like Emrakul, but would sometimes be Simian Spirit Guide instead!
This deck was extremely explosive, and extremely random – which made it very fun to play for a few matches, but very miserable when you had to face it repeatedly in the Magic Online Leagues.
13. Living End
Living End has been around for a decade, but the strategy massively leveled up with the introduction of Shardless Agent to Modern, and the printing of free spells like Modern Horizon 1’s “Forces” and Modern Horizon 2‘s “Pitch Elementals.”
12. Valki Cascade
While Tibalt’s Trickery and Living End are two powerful ways to abuse the cascade mechanic, the most effective way was to cascade into Valki, God of Lies. Under the old rules, you could then cast it as Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor as early as the second or third turn of the game (thankfully, the rules have since changed so that you can only cast the Valki side).
What made this combo so powerful is that it asked very little in terms of setup or deckbuilding restrictions. This strategy became so dominant that cascade decks started trying to level one another with Force of Negation and Teferi, Time Raveler in the main deck.
After the wild west days were over, the combo of Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Walking Ballista cemented itself as one of the most successful ways to approach Modern. It came in a resilient W/G creature shell that had a great matchup against almost all of the other “fair” decks in the format.
It won multiple high-stakes Magic Online Championship events in the hands of Michael Jacob and Martin-Eric Gauthier.
9. Temur Cascade
The heir to the Tibalt Cascade decks is Temur Cascade, which uses Shardless Agent and Violent Outburst to cast Crashing Footfalls ahead of schedule. Like Tibalt Cascade, this is a simple combo that really doesn’t demand very much of its pilot. With a supporting cast of split cards, Forces and Pitch Elementals, Temur Cascade remains a powerful and well-rounded strategy.
Temur Cascade won a Magic Online Champions Showcase, played by Yuuki Ichikawa.
I use “Jund” as a broad term to include many different strategies involving Thoughtseize and Tarmogoyf. That said, the driving force behind its high ranking is the Jund Sagavan deck, which pairs all of the best and most efficient Modern cards with the powerful Lurrus of the Dream-Den Companion.
7. Red Prowess
Alongside Heliod/Ballista, Red Prowess was one of the very best strategies prior to Modern Horizons 2. I remember researching for a Deep Dive on this archetype where I played no less than five different versions of Monastery Swiftspear/Lava Dart decks in an effort to find the best one.
I gave Red Prowess a high ranking due to being one of the best decks in its dominant era, while also surviving as a competitive strategy post-Modern Horizons 2.
6. Death’s Shadow
Death’s Shadow comes in a lot of forms, but the most important one is Grixis Shadow. This was the weapon of choice for Starcitygames.com Invitational champion Corey Baumeister, and is one of the hottest decks in Modern at the moment.
5. Primeval Titan
Primeval Titan is never absent from the Modern format. Amulet Titan is currently a strong deck, and a popular choice among Modern’s elite players. And let’s not forget that in the first few months of 2021, you could use Primeval Titan to supercharge Field of the Dead and bury opponents in swarms of Zombies.
4. Azorius Control
Similarly, Azorius Control has thrived through all of 2021’s different metagames. In the early days, it made great use of Mystic Sanctuary with Archmage’s Charm and Cryptic Command. Now it’s gained access to Counterspell, Prismatic Ending and Solitude.
3. Izzet Murktide
Izzet Murktide didn’t exist before Modern Horizons 2. So to earn this high a ranking with only half a year of playtime is a testament to how incredible this deck has been. It gets all of the most efficient threats, answers, and cantrip cards available in red and blue. Expressive Iteration is one of the best card advantage spells in the format. And Murktide Regent is a two-mana 8/8 flying.
Literally… a two-mana 8/8 flying!
2. Colossus Hammer
Colossus Hammer was an existing strategy that catapulted from “pretty good” to “best deck in the format” with the printing of Urza’s Saga. Usually in Constructed Magic, you have to make choices between speed, consistency and staying power. Colossus Hammer gets extremely high marks in all of those categories at the same time.
Colossus Hammer won the most recent Magic Online Champions Showcase in the hands of Nico Bohny.
Modern has incredible mana fixing. The core of a fetchland plus shockland mana base, supported by Triomes, Abundant Growth and Utopia Sprawl means that you can access all colors of mana, with very little sacrifice in terms of consistency, or your ability to curve out. Combine that with the incredible card quality you get to harness by branching into four and five colors, and you have the recipe for a dominant strategy.
Multicolor decks featuring Omnath, Locus of Creation were incredibly dominant in the period where Uro was legal in Modern. After its banning, but prior to Modern Horizons 2, Omnath remained a tier one deck. Now, in the period after Modern Horizons 2, Omnath is still a tier 1 deck. The fact that Omnath started the year as the best deck and never slowed down makes it my pick for Modern deck of the year.
What will 2022 bring?