How to Lose in Modern

I have a hard time taking people’s word. Sometimes, the only way for me to verify something for myself is to actually try it. I spent the last week testing Modern on Magic Online. And believe me, I tried a lot of things. Most of them weren’t very good.

I had built up a reasonable stock of tickets on Magic Online. In the span of 3 days, I incinerated most of them, buying cards I was missing for various decks and burning them on entry fees that I did not get back. The recurring theme was that I would spend 50-100 tickets on cards I needed to build a deck, play 3-5 matches with the deck and realize it wasn’t very good, and then move on to the next deck. Rinse, incinerate, repeat. These cards ranged from Runed Halo to Bloodghast, from Anguished Unmaking to Guttural Response, from Night’s Whisper to Sword of the Meek.

Here’s a quick peek through some of the decks I tried, what I liked or disliked, and why I ultimately dismissed them. These aren’t in chronological order.


Jund is one of the few decks I tested where I had a better-than-50% win rate. Considering how poorly I did in Modern on Magic Online over the past week, this tells me that Jund is actually a playable deck. I would not feel terrible sleeving Jund up at a tournament. Most of the decks I tried I ended up going 1-4 or 2-3 if I was lucky. A few I dropped at 0-4.

Jund is…well—I mean, it’s Jund. The deck is solid. It has the best hand disruption, it plays the best creatures, and it has the best removal spells. The problem is that sometimes that’s just not enough. Sometimes your removal spells don’t do anything. Sometimes your hand disruption spells aren’t good, or your creatures are too slow to pressure your opponent.

Jund is a 53% deck. It’s the kind of deck that’s usually slightly favored against almost everything. It doesn’t have many matchups where it will almost always win, nor does it have any extremely poor matchups where it feels like it can’t win without getting very lucky. The problem with a deck like that is that sometimes it’s actually a 47% deck and you don’t realize it, meaning that sometimes Jund is actually not favored against anything. The other problem with a 53% deck is that you don’t have a lot of margin for error. Make some mistakes or mulligan a few too many times, and it’s lights out.

I also have this theory that to succeed in Modern you have to play unfair, and Jund doesn’t do that.

UWR Nahiri

Gerry Thompson

Peter Ingram, 1st place at the SCG Open

I tested a lot with this deck. A lot more than I did with most of the other decks that I tried. And I didn’t like it. It just won the SCG Open, so it’s clear I’m giving this deck less credit than it deserves, but I simply didn’t like how it played out.

This deck still suffers from the same problems that UWR Control has always suffered from in Modern. It’s bad if the removal spells aren’t good. The deck is basically all removal spells, and if you get paired against a deck where Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Path to Exile aren’t great, then you’re in trouble.

There’s also not a lot of synergy between the pieces in this deck: Mana Leak and Path to Exile, and Tectonic Edge in some lists. Counterspells and planeswalkers also don’t play very well together. Do you sit on Spell Snare or do you play Nahiri? Often it feels like either choice is a losing option.

I don’t think this deck is terrible. It will probably continue to put up good results. But I also think it has many flaws and is unlikely to be a deck I pick up myself.


I saw this deck was consistently going 5-0 in Magic Online Leagues, so I decided that I had to test it out. I played 3 matches with the deck, dropped from the league I was in, and vowed never to touch it again.

First of all, this deck is extremely all-in. It can’t beat graveyard hate. A lot of decks are playing cards like Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, and the like right now. Every opponent I played against had hate.

Secondly, the deck loses to itself. Badly. I mulliganed to 5 a lot, there are a lot of hands that just don’t do anything, and even if you get your dredge chain assembled, sometimes you still don’t do anything or don’t have anything nearly good enough to win the game. You might be able to Faithless Looting and dredge twice off of it, put in some Bloodghasts and Prized Amalgams and then just die to Blighted Agent, or Melira combo gaining infinite life, or who knows what.

For what it’s worth, the versions of this deck that I was impressed with all played Bridge from Below and Narcomoeba, didn’t play Vengevines or Lotleth Trolls, and had more ways to power through the deck, like Burning Inquiry, Goblin Lore, or Drowned Rusalka. I was impressed in particular with Drowned Rusalka along with Bridge from Below and 1-2 copies of Rally the Peasants in the deck. Those versions were still all-in, but at least they did something powerful when they went off, and could win the game very quickly.


At one point, I got the idea that maybe Grishoalbrand was good right now. It was a deck that people weren’t talking about. It had kind of fallen off the radar and it still did a very powerful thing. I thought maybe it was something that would take people by surprise if they weren’t expecting it.

These thoughts of grandeur didn’t last very long. One 0-4 later, and I was emphatically off it. Grishoalbrand has a lot of explosive draws, but still suffers from the same flaws it always has. It can have a hard time beating Path to Exile and graveyard hate. It loses to itself way too frequently.

There were a few games where I “locked” my opponent out with a turn-2 Blood Moon and then did nothing for 10 turns and still lost anyway. That’s just embarrassing. I only needed to subject myself to that for a short period of time before I could see the writing on the wall. Sorry Grishoalbrand, Infect is the only good turn-3 combo deck remaining.

UW Thopters

Gerry Thompson

Oh boy. The only thing I can conclude from playing with this deck is that Gerry Thompson is a master to be able to win with this. A stone cold master. I went a casual 1-4 with this deck, and I felt like I got pretty lucky getting that 1. I also didn’t feel like I got unlucky getting that 4. In fact, I felt like 1-4 was a pretty expected result for this deck.

I’m not sure how to really describe why this deck didn’t work out. It was extremely clunky, there were a lot of cards that did nothing on their own, and even when the deck did do what it was supposed to in a smooth and reasonable fashion, it still was not good enough.

I do think that a Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek deck exists and people haven’t figured it out yet, but I don’t think this is it. Gifts Ungiven just isn’t a card I want to put into my decks.

That’s all the space I got for today. I’ve got a number of other Modern decks I tested out to varying results, as well as many more decks I still haven’t gotten around to testing yet that I would like to at some point. Stay tuned for part 2 later this week.

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