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Five of the Best Modern Decks You Missed from GP Vegas

MagicFest Las Vegas was home to lots of awesome tournaments, including two Grands Prix. Nearly 2,000 players descended to battle in the Modern Grand Prix, and the tournament was won by Simon Nielsen. To the surprise of no one, the Top 8 decklists were dominated by Hogaak, but there were plenty of spicy decks that finished outside the Top 8.

In this overview, you can find links to nearly all submitted decklists in final standing order. That’s right, this link opens the door to nearly 2,000 Modern decklists—a goldmine of information for Modern enthusiasts.

In this article, I will highlight five decks from Day 2 of GP Las Vegas that did not make Top 8 and that stood out to me because they are unique and/or benefited from new Modern Horizons and Core Set 2020 additions.

Modern Decks You Don’t Want to Miss

Hardened Scales

Logan Marts, 12-3 at GP Las Vegas

1 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
6 Forest (347)
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Llanowar Reborn
2 Nurturing Peatland
1 Pendelhaven
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Hangarback Walker
3 Scrapyard Recombiner
2 Steel Overseer
4 Walking Ballista
4 Ancient Stirrings
2 Animation Module
4 Hardened Scales
4 Mox Opal
1 Throne of Geth
4 Welding Jar

Sideboard
3 Damping Sphere
3 Dismember
4 Grafdigger's Cage
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
3 Nature's Claim

Logan Marts was one win short of making Top 8. While the Hardened Scales archetype is nothing new—the deck has been around for over a year and finished second at the latest Mythic Championship—the inclusion of Scrapyard Recombiner is.

Scrapyard Recombiner

Hangarback Walker, Walking Ballista, Arcbound Worker, and Steel Overseer are all Constructs, so Scrapyard Recombiner can grab all the key creatures in the deck except for Arcbound Ravager, which is a Beast for some reason.

When you control Hardened Scales, sacrificing Scrapyard Recombiner to itself can also yield repetitive value: You get to put four +1/+1 counters on another artifact creature, fetch another Scrapyard Recombiner, and do the same thing again on the next turn.

Finally, in a deck with far too many two-drops, the addition of a three-drop nicely smooths out the curve.

All in all, Scrapyard Recombiner fits the deck. Although most lists haven’t included this new Modern Horizons option, the fact that the highest-placing Hardened Scales deck in a huge event included them means that it deserves further consideration.

Bant Soulherder

Liam Robinson, 10-3-2 at GP Vegas

1 Breeding Pool
1 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Prismatic Vista
3 Snow-Covered Forest
3 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Temple Garden
3 Windswept Heath
4 Coiling Oracle
1 Deputy of Detention
3 Eternal Witness
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
1 Knight of Autumn
4 Soulherder
1 Thragtusk
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
3 Wall of Blossoms
1 Watcher for Tomorrow
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Ephemerate
4 Force of Negation
4 Path to Exile
1 Time Warp

Sideboard
3 Celestial Purge
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dovin's Veto
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Rest in Peace
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Stonehorn Dignitary
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Thragtusk
1 Tormod's Crypt

Bant Soulherder is a relatively new deck that was popularized by Gabriel Nassif and that has found success at multiple tournaments recently. At GP Birmingham, which was held the weekend before GP Las Vegas, Scott Mines ran the deck and posted an impressive 11-3-1 finish. At GP Las Vegas, several pilots of the deck finished in the money, with Liam Robinson placing the highest.

So what makes the deck tick?

Coiling OracleIce-Fang CoatlWall of Blossoms

Bant Soulherder is a value-based Bant Midrange deck based around a selection of two-drops that draw a card when they enter the battlefield.

SoulherderEphemerate

By blinking the two-drops repeatedly, you can keep drawing more cards. Soulherder is the namesake engine of the deck.

Force of NegationPath to Exile

These two cost-effective interactive spells prevent your opponent from executing their plans.

Eternal Witness

Eternal Witness holds it all together. It can return Ephemerate to set up a loop where you keep generating card advantage. Or it can return one of the interactive spells to keep your opponent in check.

Bant Soulherder is the real deal.

Dice Factory

Jeremy Frye, 11-4 at GP Las Vegas

1 Blast Zone
3 Forest (347)
1 Horizon Canopy
2 Inventors' Fair
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
4 Coretapper
4 Karn, the Great Creator
4 Ancient Stirrings
3 Astral Cornucopia
2 Chromatic Star
3 Ensnaring Bridge
4 Everflowing Chalice
4 Expedition Map
4 Mox Opal
3 Mystic Forge
1 Paradox Engine
3 Surge Node
2 Welding Jar

Sideboard
4 Beast Within
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Mystic Forge
1 Pithing Needle
1 Spellskite
1 Trinisphere
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Walking Ballista
2 Welding Jar
1 Witchbane Orb

You might look at the mana base, Ancient Stirrings, and Expedition Maps along with Karn, the Great Creator and classify this as Tron. But that would be a mistake.

CoretapperSurge NodeAstral CornucopiaEverflowing Chalice

The core mana engine of the deck is to put charge counters on Astral Cornucopia and Everflowing Chalice. Sometimes, you might even cast Astral Cornucopia for X=0, immediately sacrifice Coretapper, and get a substantial mana boost. You’d better get your dice ready, because this deck needs a lot of them.

The deck even features Mox Opal and the Urza lands to further support the mana ramp theme. So what do you do with all that mana?

Ensnaring Bridge

First things first: Dump our hand onto the table and make our opponents unable to attack.

Then what?

Mystic Forge

Dice Factory resurged after Core Set 2020 introduced Mystic Forge. In this deck, Mystic Forge is like an Experimental Frenzy that still allows you to cast cards from your hand. That’s quite important when you’re relying on Ensnaring Bridge.

When you see a land on top, you can exile it with Mystic Forge. This way, assuming you have abundant mana, you can expect to play about four free cards every turn. That’s already insane. And once you add Paradox Engine, you may be able to play out your entire deck in a single turn.

Okay, but how do you win?

Karn, the Great CreatorMycosynth Lattice

It’s not fancy, but it will win you the game.

All in all, with the introduction of Mystic Forge, Dice Factory is now a real contender in Modern. Don’t dismiss Coretapper and Surge Node as joke cards. Jeremy Frye’s 11-4 finish proves otherwise.

Rhino Balance

Warren Woodward, 9-6 at GP Las Vegas

2 Fiery Islet
1 Flooded Strand
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal
3 Steam Vents
3 Greater Gargadon
4 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Ancestral Vision
4 As Foretold
4 Crashing Footfalls
4 Electrodominance
4 Faithless Looting
2 Finale of Promise
3 Opt
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Restore Balance

Sideboard
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Blood Moon
2 Grafdigger's Cage
4 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Shattering Spree
1 Spell Pierce

Since the release of Modern Horizons, brewers have trying to find the best home for Crashing Footfalls. At GP Birmingham, Steven van Doesburg played Izzet Rhinos to a 9-6 finish. At GP Las Vegas, Warren Woodward also went 9-6, but with a Jeskai build.

Crashing FootfallsAncestral VisionAs ForetoldElectrodominance

What all versions have in common is that they use As Foretold or Electrodominance to cast spells without a mana cost.

Given that core, you could stay Izzet and add cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist or Force of Negation. Or, like Warren Woodward, you can add white.

Greater GargadonRestore Balance

Restore Balance is another one of those suspend spells that you can cast via As Foretold or Electrodominance. If you sacrifice your board to Greater Gargadon beforehand, it can wreck your opponent’s development, likely leaving them unable to deal with an angry 9/7.

Faithless Looting

Warren Woodward’s build includes a card that was suddenly banned last Monday. A natural question to ask is how the Faithless Looting ban will impact this deck.

Fortunately, Faithless Looting is not a centerpiece since the deck doesn’t rely on the graveyard. I guess you lose the synergy with Finale of Promise, so you may have to cut those, but that’s fine since Finale of Promise is only a two-of. You could easily replace Faithless Looting with alternative card draw spells like Serum Visions and/or Sleight of Hand, and I don’t think it would make a large difference. As Foretold decks can easily do without.

This is not true for other decks. For instance, I was originally planning to showcase Robert Hodges’ Skelementals deck, but without Faithless Looting to discard Lightning Skelemental, payoff cards like Thunderkin Awakener and Unearth get worse, as does Smiting Helix. While this archetype is not dead, it’s just one of the many decks that will need to be rebuild from the ground up following the Faithless Looting ban.

Jund Dragons

Christopher Ewing, 9-6 at GP Las Vegas

1 Blood Crypt
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Eldrazi Temple
1 Forest (347)
3 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
1 Mountain (343)
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp (339)
1 Wastes (184) (Full Art)
3 Wooded Foothills
1 Dragonlord Kolaghan
1 Dragonlord Silumgar
2 Glorybringer
2 Platinum Emperion
4 Reality Smasher
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Thunderbreak Regent
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Farseek
3 Madcap Experiment
4 Search for Tomorrow

Sideboard
1 Abrade
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Assassin's Trophy
1 Carnage Tyrant
3 Collector Ouphe
4 Leyline of the Void

Although there is one blue card (Dragonlord Silumgar) that is castable via Haven of the Spirit Dragon and Cavern of Souls, all basic lands are from the Jund shard. Except for Wastes, I guess. Wait, Wastes? What is even going on here?

Let’s break it down.

Search for TomorrowSakura-Tribe ElderFarseek

Okay, so we’re ramping. Usually you see these cards alongside Valakut, but you can use them to ramp into anything.

Madcap ExperimentPlatinum Emperion

Ramping into a turn-three 8/8 that protects your life total is a good path to victory. It can easily steal games against decks like Burn.

Thought-Knot SeerReality SmasherEldrazi Temple

Alternatively, you can ramp into huge Eldrazi. That’s perfectly reasonable too.

Stormbreath DragonThundermaw HellkiteThunderbreak Regent

Okay, I don’t know what to make of this. Never did I expect to see Madcap Experiment, Thought-Knot Seer, and Thunderbreak Regent all in the same deck. It’s a bizarre amalgamation. But I can appreciate how Haven of the Spirit Dragon is a mana base bridge between Dragons and Eldrazi. I also like how all game plans are enabled by the green mana ramp spells. And it’s exciting to see the Dragon tribe represented in the first place.

Yet if I’m being perfectly honest, the Dragons seem too slow and underpowered for Modern. Also, with 18 cards costing 5+ mana, this deck has one of the most top-heavy curves I’ve ever seen. So I don’t quite understand and therefore can’t properly explain how Christopher Ewing managed to go 9-6 in Las Vegas. But mad props to him. In Modern, anything is possible.

Conclusion

Without Hogaak and Faithless Looting, Modern will never look the same. But as my full decklist overview of Grand Prix Las Vegas showed, there are tons of competitively viable decks in the format. If you’re up for it, take a deep dive into these GP Las Vegas decklists and let me know which ones you like the best!

Discussion

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