fbpx

Frank Analysis – Opening Hands in Modern

Last weekend, I was in Prague to cover the Grand Prix, providing commentary together with Marijn Lybaert and Simon Görtzen (plus, not to forget, Rich Hagon in the director’s chair and Steven Leeming behind the cameras.) Although I had done text coverage and the occasional round on video before, this marked my first time as a full-weekend video commentator. Though I made some mistakes and still have some areas to improve, I enjoyed doing it and was happy to share my analysis of many exciting games of Modern over the course of the weekend.

In between rounds, we had interesting features instead of match replays. Simon Görtzen went into the trenches and did player interviews, competitors explained the workings of their decks in deck techs, and I had prepared several pieces on opening hands. There was much more going on behind the scenes as well, but almost all of the feature matches on Sunday went to the extra turns, leaving little time in between rounds for the prepared content. In particular, we only managed to cover a fraction of the opening hands I had prepared. I didn’t want to let that content go to waste, so in this article, I’ll show them all. I divided the format into midrange decks, aggro decks, and combo decks.

The goal of this article is twofold. First, opening hands provide a concrete way to see a deck in action and to highlight basic game plans. By looking at typical opening hands for all of the top deck archetypes in Modern, you can get a quick overview or introduction to the entire format. Second, opening hands can feature interesting mulligan or sequencing decisions. For various hands, I’ll assume that I’m on the play against an unknown deck and explain which lands and cards I’d play over the course of the first couple of turns for maximum effect.

Midrange Decks

Jund

Jund contains the best cheap creatures in the Modern format, along with the best 1-for-1 hand disruption and creature removal spells. It doesn’t go for powerful combos or synergies, but rather just plays all of the best cards in red, black, and green. As a result, it excels at disrupting the opponent’s game plan while beating down with efficient creatures, and it’s one of the most popular decks in Modern.

[draft]Thoughtseize
Dark Confidant
Lightning Bolt
Deathrite Shaman
Verdant Catacombs
Blackcleave Cliffs
Raging Ravine[/draft]

This hand is an easy keep and features one of the best possible openings. [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] is one of the best card drawing engines in the format, and this hand also contains [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] to protect it. To play both cards on the second turn, I’d lead off with [ccProd]Verdant Catacombs[/ccProd], fetch a basic Swamp, and play [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] on turn one.

I search for Swamp over Forest because the deck needs double black for [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd]. I search for Swamp rather than [ccProd]Overgrown Tomb[/ccProd] because protecting your life total (especially with [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] coming down) can be crucially important. We’re still missing a second green to activate [ccProd]Raging Ravine[/ccProd], but it should be possible to draw into that. I lead off with [ccProd]Verdant Catacombs[/ccProd] rather than [ccProd]Blackcleave Cliffs[/ccProd], because that allows me to go [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd], [ccProd]Raging Ravine[/ccProd] on turn two if I’d lose my [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] to a discard spell of my opponent. There’s also a very minor deck thinning bonus. Leading with a fetchland is worse against [ccProd]Relic of Progenitus[/ccProd], though, so if I know I’m playing against R/G Tron, then I’d play [ccProd]Blackcleave Cliffs[/ccProd] as my first land.

[draft]Thoughtseize
Dark Confidant
Lightning Bolt
Deathrite Shaman
Liliana of the Veil
Blackcleave Cliffs
Raging Ravine[/draft]

Same hand as before, except that [ccProd]Verdant Catacombs[/ccProd] was replaced by [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd]. Since Modern mainly revolves around creatures, Liliana is arguably the best planeswalker in the format. Yet, it makes the hand more awkward. Without Verdant Catacombs, what’s the play on turn one?

One option is [ccProd]Blackcleave Cliffs[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd]. This is good if the opponent starts with a fetchland or if you draw a fetchland on the next turn, as then you would still able to play [ccProd]Inquisition of Kozilek[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] on turn two. You also have the option of playing [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd] if you see you’re up against a combo deck. However, in the face of [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd], the opponent will avoid cracking a fetchland if possible, and the probability of drawing a fetchland yourself is only 15% or so.

Another option is [ccProd]Blackcleave Cliffs[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]. This line will be great if you draw an untapped land on the next turn, as then you’ll have [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] with discard protection. There is roughly a one in three chance of drawing an untapped land, making this a bit of a gamble.

The third and final option is [ccProd]Raging Ravine[/ccProd], go. This way, you are guaranteed to be able to cast [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] on turn two. The earlier you get it out, the more turns you have to draw extra cards, which can be quite valuable. So, this would be my preference of how to handle this hand. You also save [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] for a possibly better time. A turn one [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] revealing [ccProd]Deceiver Exarch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd], and 5 lands is not very informative. In contrast, waiting with [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] until turn three might reveal [ccProd]Deceiver Exarch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Pestermite[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd]. By giving your opponent a few additional draw steps before playing the discard spell, you can gain more information on how to punch a hole in the opponent’s plan.

Junk

The Junk deck is similar to Jund, but splashes white for [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd] rather than red for [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]. Many Junk versions play [ccProd]Tectonic Edge[/ccProd] as well, though it is not entirely clear to me why [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] typically means 0 [ccProd]Tectonic Edge[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd] typically means 4 [ccProd]Tectonic Edge[/ccProd]. The latter mana bases seem greedy to me. An interesting interaction is that [ccProd]Darkblast[/ccProd] (which Jeremy Dezani played as a 1-of in his Junk list) can dredge into [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd].

[draft]Thoughtseize
Tarmogoyf
Lingering Souls
Deathrite Shaman
Godless Shrine
Tectonic Edge
Treetop Village[/draft]

Another solid hand, but another question of what to do on turn one.

You could play [ccProd]Godless Shrine[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd]. However, that doesn’t accomplish much before a land hits the graveyard.

Alternatively, you could lead off with [ccProd]Treetop Village[/ccProd] to be sure you have green mana for a turn-two [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd]. However, a 0/1 on turn 2 is much less impressive than, say, a [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd], so I don’t like the turn-one manland here.

My line would be to play [ccProd]Godless Shrine[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] on turn one. If you draw an untapped green source on the next turn, then you can play [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd], which will likely be outside of [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] range by that time. If you don’t draw that untapped green source, then you can always play [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Treetop Village[/ccProd] on turn two as a fine back-up option.

UWR Midrange

With instants, countermagic, burn spells, and flash cards, UWR decks are capable of playing a reactive game on the opponent’s turn. UWR comes in many varieties, from pure control (with [ccProd]Sphinx’s Revelation[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Supreme Verdict[/ccProd]) to mid-range (with [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Blade Splicer[/ccProd]) to tempo (with [ccProd]Geist of Saint Traft[/ccProd]). I don’t like to be pure control because too many decks attack from too many angles in Modern, and Geist decks had fallen out of favor recently. Nevertheless, Vjeran Horvat claimed the trophy in Prague with a [ccProd]Geist of Saint Traft[/ccProd] version.

[draft]Snapcaster Mage
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Electrolyze
Vendilion Clique
Tectonic Edge
Sacred Foundry[/draft]

This hand is missing blue mana, so let’s do some math. Many lands in the deck will provide blue mana, but not all. Let’s suppose that there are 18 blue sources in the deck. Then, the probability of drawing at least one blue source over in the next two draw steps is only 56%. That’s not high enough for me, so I would mulligan this hand.

[draft]Snapcaster Mage
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Path to Exile
Hallowed Fountain
Tectonic Edge
Sacred Foundry[/draft]

This hand is an easy keep. But suppose you’re on the draw, perhaps facing [ccProd]Verdant Catacomb[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] on turn one. You draw a land. What’s the play?

I would play [ccProd]Hallowed Fountain[/ccProd] untapped and pass the turn. I’m not planning to play [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd] yet, as you don’t want to give your opponent a free land that early in the game. But keeping mana open for [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd] can be important. Although the opponent may very well read that untapped [ccProd]Hallowed Fountain[/ccProd] for [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd] (and avoid playing a two-drop if he can help it), you still need to be able to stop [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] if possible.

This hand also illustrates interesting bluffing potential: if you’re not holding [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd], consider playing [ccProd]Hallowed Fountain[/ccProd] untapped to represent it and possibly throw off your opponent’s plans.

G/W Hatebears

Many combo decks (such as Pod, Tron, and Scapeshift) rely on library-searching effects, and [ccProd]Leonin Arbiter[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Aven Mindcensor[/ccProd]s are nice foils to those plans. They also have nice synergy with [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ghost Quarter[/ccProd].

[draft]Leonin Arbiter
Aven Mindcensor
Loxodon Smiter
Path to Exile
Ghost Quarter
Horizon Canopy
Horizon Canopy[/draft]

Double [ccProd]Horizon Canopy[/ccProd] makes this a very painful hand, but I still think it’s best to keep it. It does have a nice mix between lands, creatures, and interactive cards, after all. I’d lead with [ccProd]Ghost Quarter[/ccProd] on turn one. So if you ever see an opponent playing turn one [ccProd]Ghost Quarter[/ccProd] and passing the turn, then this is likely what’s up.

By the way, if you’re playing against green/white, reconsider before ticking up [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd]. There may be a [ccProd]Loxodon Smiter[/ccProd] waiting for you.

Soul Sisters

This is like a white weenie deck, but then with synergies between life gain and creatures that care about life gain.

[draft]Martyr of Sands
Soul Warden
Serra Ascendant
Ajani’s Pridemate
Honor of the Pure
Plains
Plains[/draft]

You can take various lines with this opening hand.

You could play [ccProd]Soul Warden[/ccProd] on turn one and [ccProd]Ajani’s Pridemate[/ccProd] on turn two. This immediately grows Pridemate to a 3/3.

You could play [ccProd]Martyr of Sands[/ccProd] on turn one and crack it on turn two for 12 life. This means that [ccProd]Serra Ascendant[/ccProd] is a 6/6 flying lifelinker right off the bat.

You could also go [ccProd]Serra Ascendant[/ccProd] on turn one, and then possibly [ccProd]Martyr of Sands[/ccProd] if you draw a new white card, or [ccProd]Ajani’s Pridemate[/ccProd] if the opponent doesn’t have a blocker for [ccProd]Serra Ascendant[/ccProd].

There are some merits to all of those lines. Running out [ccProd]Serra Ascendant[/ccProd] on turn one exposes it to [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], but holding on to it makes it vulnerable to [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]. My instinct tells me to go for [ccProd]Serra Ascendant[/ccProd] on turn one, but I’m not confident it is the best play.

RUG Delver

This deck runs lots of card draw and countermagic to transform [ccProd]Delver of Secrets[/ccProd], along with a green and red splash. There are also blue/red versions with [ccProd]Young Pyromancer[/ccProd] instead of [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd].

[draft]Serum Visions
Delver of Secrets
Mana Leak
Snapcaster Mage
Tarmogoyf
Lightning Bolt
Island[/draft]

This would be a dangerous keep. If you don’t find a land with [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd], you almost certainly lose. Is it worth keeping?

If you play [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd] on turn one, then assuming 20 lands remaining in your deck, the probability of a land drop on turn two is 1-(33/53)*(32/52)*(31/51)*(30/50)=0.86. If you also count another [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd] as “success,” the probability is even higher. Now, you don’t automatically win if you keep this hand—I’d guess you’re 55% to win the game if you find the land, also considering that you might only find another Island and be unable to cast red or green cards in the foreseeable future. Yet, 0.55*0.86=0.47, and an average 6-card hand is certainly less than 47% to win a game, so I would keep.

I should not that I don’t like to play [ccProd]Delver of Secrets[/ccProd] on turn one here, as it drastically reduces the probability of hitting a land on turn two, and you run the risk of getting your [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd] countered or discarded.

Aggro Decks

Affinity

This deck is built around cheap artifact creatures, and it aims to exploit artifact synergies with mechanics such as metalcraft and affinity. It’s my favorite deck in Modern right now. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to sequence my cards and how to manage my artifact count. However, I’m not sure it is currently well-positioned. Everyone in Prague was ready with [ccProd]Shatterstorm[/ccProd], [ccProd]Hurkyl’s Recall[/ccProd], [ccProd]Stony Silence[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd] combo decks. As a result, no Affinity deck made it to the Top 16.

[draft]Mox Opal
Mox Opal
Vault Skirge
Vault Skirge
Ornithopter
Springleaf Drum
Darksteel Citadel[/draft]

This hand allows you to dump your entire hand on the table as early as turn one! That is quite exciting, but unfortunately the hand doesn’t really do anything. A ten-turn clock is not going to cut it in Modern. I would take a mulligan.

[draft]Cranial Plating
Arcbound Ravager
Signal Pest
Memnite
Thoughtcast
Inkmoth Nexus
Glimmervoid[/draft]

This is better, as you have big cards that can exploit having many artifacts in play. On turn two, I would probably lead with [ccProd]Arcbound Ravager[/ccProd], leaving [ccProd]Cranial Plating[/ccProd] for turn three. [ccProd]Arcbound Ravager[/ccProd] gives protection from [ccProd]Pyroclasm[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd], which is a useful interaction.

Burn

Seven [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]s to your face. Thanks for playing.

[draft]Goblin Guide
Lightning Bolt
Skullcrack
Lava Spike
Mountain
Mountain
Mountain[/draft]

This hand can put the opponent down to five life by turn three! It goes that fast. And I’m not even counting any damage the opponent does to himself with his lands. Although [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd], [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd] see a lot of play, a well-timed Skullcrack can stop all that life-gain.

The main risk for this hand (and of this burn deck in general) is mana flood. If you hit a land glut, which is certainly possible because the deck doesn’t have any card draw or card selection, then you may have trouble getting to 20 damage.

Merfolk

Merfolk play a lot of creatures that can pump each other for a fast damage clock. Most versions in Modern don’t play a lot of interactive cards except for [ccProd]Vapor Snag[/ccProd], so it will function as a single-minded aggro deck in most games.

[draft]Cursecatcher
Lord of Atlantis
Silvergill Adept
Master of Waves
Aether Vial
Island
Mutavault[/draft]

This hand is almost perfect. A turn-one [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd] is worth a lot. It is basically [ccProd]Sol Ring[/ccProd], especially once [ccProd]Silvergill Adept[/ccProd] starts drawing cards. Instant-speed Lords as a combat trick are also nice.

[ccProd]Cursecatcher[/ccProd] is not great, as it doesn’t counter many of the important cards at the right time. Raphael Levy even replaced them by [ccProd]Mothdust Changeling[/ccProd], but unfortunately went 0-3 drop in Prague.

[ccProd]Master of Waves[/ccProd] is a new Theros addition. It cannot be targeted by [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], has built-in protection from [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd], and makes [ccProd]Mutavault[/ccProd] even bigger. Perhaps due to this new addition, Merfolk has been on the rise on Magic Online, and Lukasz Split piloted it to a Top 16 finish in Prague.

Infect

With infect creatures, pump spells are twice as effective, as you only need to deal 10 infect damage to win the game. The deck is weak to [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd], [ccProd]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd], but can still provide explosive draws.

[draft]Glistener Elf
Might of Old Krosa
Groundswell
Mutagenic Growth
Vines of Vastwood
Forest
Forest[/draft]

This hand features a possible turn two kill, which is quite rare in Modern. It will be important to play around [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]: play the land and cast [ccProd]Might of Old Krosa[/ccProd] first. If they let it resolve, then you can safely turn it into an 11/11 afterwards. If they respond by Bolting your [ccProd]Glistener Elf[/ccProd], then respond with [ccProd]Groundswell[/ccProd].

From the reverse perspective, if you’re holding [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] and face [ccProd]Glistener Elf[/ccProd] on turn one, you should consider Bolting it on your own turn.

I should also point out that [ccProd]Vines of the Vastwood[/ccProd] can not only simultaneously protect and beef up your creatures but can also counter an opponent’s [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd].

Hexproof

Creatures that cannot be targeted plus creature enchantments are a powerful combination, even if it’s not a lot of fun to play against.

[draft]Slippery Bogle
Rancor
Hyena Umbra
Daybreak Coronet
Kor Spiritdancer
Temple Garden
Razorverge Thicket[/draft]

Suppose you’re on the play and cast [ccProd]Slippery Bogle[/ccProd] on turn one. Your opponent plays [ccProd]Blood Crypt[/ccProd] tapped and passes. Blood Crypt likely indicates Jund, but it could also be [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd], [ccProd]Goryo’s Vengeance[/ccProd], or some other deck. You draw a land. What’s the play?

One option is to suit up your hexproof creature with [ccProd]Rancor[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Hyena Umbra[/ccProd], planning to go all-in with [ccProd]Daybreak Coronet[/ccProd] on the next turn. This leaves you vulnerable to [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd], though. Moreover, it threatens merely a turn-5 kill in case we’re up against a combo deck.

Another option is to play [ccProd]Kor Spiritdancer[/ccProd]. This could be bad against [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], but if Kor Spiritdancer lives, then it can grow out of hand quickly, threatening a turn-4 kill. Speed is important (especially against combo decks), so that would be my play.

Combo Decks

Splinter Twin

This deck aims to assemble [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Pestermite[/ccProd], setting up an infinite loop that allows you to put an incredible number of hasty copies into play that can attack for lethal right away. Infinity fairies!

[draft]Pestermite
Splinter Twin
Remand
Steam Vents
Scalding Tarn
Island
Sulfur Falls[/draft]

This is a fine hand; no reason to mulligan. I’d play [ccProd]Steam Vents[/ccProd] tapped on turn one, and then [ccProd]Scalding Tarn[/ccProd] (probably fetching a Mountain) on turn two. With [ccProd]Remand[/ccProd], I’d be tempted to counter the first thing I see.

One danger for this hand is disruption (in the form of, e.g., [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]) and then not drawing any combo pieces afterwards. Yet, the deck has plenty of redundancy in [ccProd]Deceiver Exarch[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/ccProd], as well as card selection in [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd], so it shouldn’t be too difficult to assemble the combo again.

[draft]Lightning Bolt
Snapcaster Mage
Grim Lavamancer
Vendilion Clique
Izzet Charm
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest[/draft]

Although this hand does not contain any combo pieces, it is most certainly not a mulligan. Most Splinter Twin versions can also easily win by attacking the hard way. Patrick Dickmann, GP Antwerp 2013 champion, said that he won about 50% of his games without the combo. Marcel Kachapow used the same approach to finish 2nd in Prague. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone combo out with Splinter Twin the entire weekend.

G/R Tron

The Tron deck aims to get out all three Tron lands on turn 3 to have 7 mana for [ccProd]Karn Liberated[/ccProd]. With [ccProd]Expedition Map[/ccProd], [ccProd]Sylvan Scrying[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Ancient Stirrings[/ccProd], it is surprisingly consistent.

[draft]Karn Liberated
Ancient Stirrings
Sylvan Scrying
Pyroclasm
Chromatic Sphere
Urza’s Power Plant
Grove of the Burnwillows[/draft]

It may be tempting to start with [ccProd]Grove of the Burnwillows[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Ancient Stirrings[/ccProd] on turn one, but then you’d miss out on a possible turn-three Karn. You should play [ccProd]Urza’s Power Plant[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Chromatic Sphere[/ccProd] instead. On turn two, if you drew another Tron piece, then you can play it, crack the Sphere for a green mana, and then cast [ccProd]Sylvan Scrying[/ccProd] for the missing Urza land. If you didn’t draw [ccProd]Urza’s Mine[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Urza’s Tower[/ccProd] in your draw step, then don’t play [ccProd]Grove of Burnwillows[/ccProd] yet—crack the Sphere first. If that doesn’t hit either, it’s probably best to cast [ccProd]Ancient Stirrings[/ccProd]. If you find [ccProd]Urza’s Mine[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Urza’s Tower[/ccProd], there’s still hope!

It takes a bit of sequencing, but there is definite turn-three [ccProd]Karn Liberated[/ccProd] potential.

Birthing Pod

With many one-of creature, Birthing Pod can tutor up a combo, or an answer to the opponent’s plan if necessary. When [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] is active, this is the best deck in the format, as long as you remember every single one-of you can search for. Although the deck contains a combo, a majority of games are still won through regular combat damage.

[draft]Birds of Paradise
Voice of Resurgence
Kitchen Finks
Birthing Pod
Misty Rainforest
Gavony Township
Razorverge Thicket[/draft]

Birthing Pod decks come in two variants: Melira Pod (mainly focusing on the infinite life combos of [ccProd]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Viscera Seer[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Archangel of Thune[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Spike Feeder[/ccProd]) and Kiki-Pod (mainly focusing on assembling [ccProd]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/ccProd] plus either [ccProd]Deceiver Exarch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Zealous Conscripts[/ccProd]). However, there’s still a lot of overlap between the two versions.

If you play a turn-one [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] and see the above hand, then you still have no clue whether you’re up against Kiki-Pod or Melira Pod. You’d have to pay close attention to the land that Misty Rainforest would fetch. Black mana indicates Melira Pod. Red or blue mana indicates Kiki-Pod.

Scapeshift

This deck aims to [ccProd]Scapeshift[/ccProd] for [ccProd]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/ccProd] and enough Mountains to roast the opponent on the spot. When playing against Scapeshift, protect your life total—the difference between 18 and 19 life is the difference between 7 and 8 lands for them.

[draft]Scapeshift
Search for Tomorrow
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Remand
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Misty Rainforest
Steam Vents[/draft]

Excellent hand. I’d lead with Misty Rainforest into Search for Tomorrow, but pause to think on turn two. Sakura-Tribe Elder is an option, but whether or not it comes down on turn 2, 3, 4 may not matter—we’re ramping into a turn-five [ccProd]Scapeshift[/ccProd] regardless. Playing Steam Vents untapped to keep [ccProd]Remand[/ccProd] mana up could be good against aggro decks, even if you telegraph it by paying two life for the land, but less good against other blue decks with countermagic; you might need that Remand to protect Scapeshift. The play should depend on what the opponent’s first turn.

Living End

This deck will spend the first 2-3 turns cycling creatures. Then, it casts a cascade spell that is guaranteed to hit [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd], which will return all cycled creatures from the graveyard. [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd] can crush creature-based decks, while land destruction can disrupt other decks.

[draft]Street Wraith
Monstrous Carabid
Fulminator Mage
Violent Outburst
Living End
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt[/draft]

This hand is not ideal; it doesn’t have a green source, and having [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd] in your opener is like a mulligan. Nevertheless, it’s still a keep because it contains cyclers, a cascade spell, and a few lands.

Storm

This deck patiently waits for a key turn in which it will chain a large number of spells into a lethal [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd].

[draft]Goblin Electromancer
Pyromancer Ascension
Pyretic Ritual
Gitaxian Probe
Past in Flames
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents[/draft]

An easy keep, but what to do on turn one? You could play [ccProd]Scalding Tarn[/ccProd], get an Island, and then cast [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd]. However, I prefer to pay 2 life for [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd]. If I draw [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd], then I can still cast it on that turn. Otherwise, I play [ccProd]Steam Vents[/ccProd] tapped.

Goryo’s Vengeance

It’s always fun to sneak [ccProd]Griselbrand[/ccProd] in play. Some versions run [ccProd]Necrotic Ooze[/ccProd]; others are all-in on [ccProd]Through the Breach[/ccProd]. And if you’re Jan van der Vegt, you choose [ccProd]Fist of Suns[/ccProd].

[draft]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Faithless Looting
Goryo’s Vengeance
Fist of Suns
Steam Vents
Blood Crypt
Gemstone Mine[/draft]

On turn three, this deck could play [ccProd]Faithless Looting[/ccProd], discarding [ccProd]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/ccProd] and reanimating it in response to the shuffle trigger. When facing [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd], however, a better route to victory is hardcasting [ccProd]Emrakul[/ccProd] for WUBRG. You still get the extra turn this way.

Green Devotion

If it’s possible in Standard, then why not in Modern?

[draft]Arbor Elf
Burning-Tree Emissary
Burning-Tree Emissary
Craterhoof Behemoth
Utopia Sprawl
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Forest[/draft]

Turn three kill; not bad. I’m not a deck like this is viable or consistent enough. It is weak to [ccProd]Pyroclasm[/ccProd] and lacks disruption to stop the opponent’s plan. Nevertheless, if you can win on turn three, then you don’t need any disruption.

Amulet of Vigor

Yeah, this deck is crazy. Let me just show you an opening hand.

[draft]Amulet of Vigor
Amulet of Vigor
Summer Bloom
Primeval Titan
Simic Growth Chamber
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Gemstone Mine[/draft]

Turn one is simple: [ccProd]Gemstone Mine[/ccProd], [ccProd]Amulet of Vigor[/ccProd].

On turn two, all hell breaks loose. We’ll start off with another Amulet of Vigor. It is important to note that they stack, i.e., you’ll get two untap triggers every time a land enters the battlefield tapped. You then play Simic Growth Chamber, and the two untap triggers yield GGUU in your mana pool. Bounce [ccProd]Simic Growth Chamber[/ccProd] to its own enters-the-battlefield trigger. Next up is Summer Bloom. Simic Growth Chamber bounces itself again. You now have GGGUUU in your pool. Cast Primeval Titan and fetch Boros Garrison and Slayers’ Stronghold. Two untap triggers for each result in a 10/6 hasty Titan. Finally, play Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, attack with your Titan to fetch two more Karoo lands, and activate Sunhome for the win.

Conclusion

I looked at opening hands for 20 different decks in Modern. This gives a nice introduction, but there’s still plenty of fringe decks out there that I haven’t even explored.

Would you have made different mulligan or play decisions with these opening hands? Post your ideas in the comments!

I’ll be doing a mix between playing, text coverage, and video coverage at the next couple of European Grand Prix tournaments. If you have any feedback, let me know. First up, however, will be the Pro Tour in Valencia. I doubt that Born of the Gods is going to shake up the Modern, but I’m looking forward to be testing some new concoctions.

Discussion

Scroll to Top