Team Trios, featuring Standard, Modern, and Legacy, is becoming exceptionally popular in tournament Magic. Featured in both the Premier Play and SCG tournament series, you can compete in or watch Team Trios on practically any weekend you’d like.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to play this format, I hope that you will someday soon, as it’s fun, engaging, and offers a wide variety of experiences. While fielding a team might seem like an intimidating prospect if you’re new to the scene, you really shouldn’t hesitate.
Teams come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of experience. One team might have someone who’s returning to Magic after a long hiatus. One team might have card availability problems in Legacy, while another features Eternal-format specialists who have never played a game of Standard. One team might be entirely new players, while another contains three elites who can’t decide which player to assign to which format. None of these problems needs to stop a team from competing!
There might be a few teams out there composed of single-format specialists who fall perfectly into place and already have decks picked out, but those teams are a very small minority. For the rest of us, we face a challenge in deciding how to allocate our limited time and resources to solve a complicated problem. In today’s article, I’ll offer some advice and recommendations for each of the three formats for teams of varying levels of experience. I offered my suggestions for Legacy earlier, and I’ll share my picks for Standard later this week.
Modern has similarities to Legacy in the sense that the games are fast and brutal, and mistakes tend to be severely punished. But without the library manipulation and free counterspells, you can get a bit further simply by merely playing your own cards well. Which player to put in the Modern seat is as simple as knowing which player has a Modern deck that they like.
Expert Modern Players
If your Modern player is “proficient” with any of the format’s top archetypes, then you have a fine chance to do well. But having an expert on your team does unlock a couple of powerful archetypes that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone short of a master. They are Krark-Clan Ironworks and Death’s Shadow.
Matt Nass, with Krark-Clan Ironworks, put up a third place followed by a first place in back-to-back Modern Grand Prix. Results like that with a relatively unknown deck indicate something very special. Ironworks has trouble fighting through Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, and Leyline of the Void, but is exceptionally difficult to shut down with traditional anti-combo measures like discard and permission.
Death’s Shadow dipped in popularity in the wake of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor being unbanned. But time has proven that making your midrange deck strong against other midrange decks need not be a top priority in Modern. I tend to think of Death’s Shadow as the midrange deck that—due to its speed, disruption, and power—is best against the unfair decks of Modern.
With tricky gameplay and customization in deckbuilding, Death’s Shadow is a perfect choice for an elite player. Just be sure to pack plenty of Grim Lavamancers and Fatal Pushes to improve the Humans matchup.
Proficient Modern Players
Most decks in Modern require a baseline level of experience to pilot well. But since so many games are fast and lopsided, familiarizing yourself with the way your deck’s opening turns tend to play is what’s most important. Two recommendations for proficient Modern players are Humans and Tron.
Humans is Modern’s deck to beat for good reason. It’s fast and resilient, and has built-in disruption for combo and control decks in the form of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kitesail Freebooter, and Meddling Mage.
Tron makes for some of the most powerful draws available in Modern. It also has a highly favorable matchup against Humans and Bogles, which have tended to be very popular choices lately.
Beginner Modern Players
Modern is a generally challenging format. The good news is that some decks allow you to effectively ignore whatever the opponent is doing, and simply focus on your own game plan. Bogles and Valakut (also known as R/G Scapeshift) are two decks where playing solitaire is often good enough to win the game.
The idea behind Bogles is to make it so that your opponent’s cards do nothing. Spot removal can’t touch your hexproof creatures, board sweepers don’t work against Umbras, and Leyline of Sanctity shuts off a lot of the remaining defenses your opponent might have turned to. My one-sentence advice for playing Bogles is: mulligan all seven-card hands that don’t have Gladecover Scout or Slippery Bogle.
Valakut resembles Tron in its play patterns and matchups, but is simpler to pilot. You’re typically playing one card per turn at sorcery speed, and fighting through sideboard hate is more straightforward than it is with Tron. Your deck does roughly the same thing every game, which is to win the game with Primeval Titan or Scapeshift on turn 4 or 5.
If you’re competing in Grand Prix Toronto this coming weekend, or are interested in Team Trios for a future event, then I hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful. You don’t need world-class players in all three formats to have a highly competitive team. But it’s sometimes best to be realistic and conservative when making your deck choices. It’s always best to think deeply about the best way to allocate your resources and configure your strategy.