Modern BUG

While birding a match between BUG Delver and Junk, I noticed that the Delver deck’s Tasigurs were activating multiple times while only getting back air, particularly smaller creatures and cantrips.

When the slower, more powerful Junk deck activated Tasigur, it got back a more powerful spell, and had an easier time closing.

The match gave me this idea for a more midrangy BUG list. What if we kept the Snapcaster Mages but took out the conditional creatures (Delver of Secrets) and shaved cantrips? What if we upped our curve so we could run more lands and more powerful spells?

Modern BUG1

I’d like to thank everyone that gave me feedback on my stream and on Twitter. A few of the cards are even viewer ideas.

I didn’t start with this deck as a solution to any specific problem the metagame was proposing. Rather, I thought of it as a solid “good stuff” deck filled with quality threats and disruption. Unfortunately, that deck already exists, and it’s called Junk, so what does this deck do better?

The main gains are against combo (particularly Storm) and Tron. There are a few more aggressive matchups, like Infect and Burn, where having cheap countermagic is relevant.

I haven’t tested it to death or anything, but my MTGO match history says I’m 15-5 with it, which isn’t enough to give a definitive win rate but is enough to show that the deck is profitable.

The problem with Junk is that it has a target on its head. This doesn’t make Junk bad—it’s not like it’s an easy deck to hate out—but people are less likely to play a deck that loses to it, and you don’t really get any free wins matchup-wise.

The problem with this BUG deck is that we don’t have access to Lingering Souls, which might prove a hindrance in the Liliana mirror.

Now, while Junk showed up as 30% of the winning decks on the Pro Tour or something like that, more ordinary tournaments (like MTGO Dailys) aren’t going to follow that trend so precisely. Some of that is people metagaming against the top deck, but a lot of it is that Modern is expensive and most people only have so many decks. At the Pro Tour, there was a big incentive to find the best deck, which naturally leads to some clumping as people reach similar conclusions about a format.

This is both a blessing to my pocketbook and a hindrance to my testing, as I’ve only gotten to play against Junk once so far.

Card Choices

I’m not going to explain why I’m playing Serum Visions in my Snapcaster Mage deck, or why I think Liliana is a good card, but I do want to talk about a few of the less intuitive picks.

I didn’t want to run the full 4 here. Like I stated earlier, the deck should have a fairly powerful average Tasigur activation.

I’ve been happy with two Scours. If you draw one early, it can help spit out a turn-two Tasigur or maybe turn three with Stubborn Denial protection. It also gives you something to Snapcast on the opponent’s turn if you want to leave up mana.

Someone suggested this one for the sideboard, but the more I looked at the composition of the deck the more I thought I could get away with it main. In the early game, a Force Spike is likely to be good. In the late game, it’s more likely to be a hard counter.

My perception might be skewed because I keep Force Spiking people trying to Snapcast back Cryptic Command or fire off Sphinx’s Revelation, but I think we have enough efficient sources of ferocious for Stubborn Denial to be a legitimately good card. So far I’ve used it to counter Path to Exile on my turn three Tasigur, combined it with Snapcaster Mage to beat Burn in game one, and soft-locked MUTron out with it + Tasigur (I almost decked).

Modern BUG2

As you can see here, I used to run Scavenging Ooze. Ooze won a few games (here it does a fine job of breaking up Academy Ruins lock), but cutting it let me make green the splash color, and the mana improved.

I was sideboarding Thragtusk in my Doran deck despite being something of a nombo with Doran itself, and I would maindeck it in any other green midrange deck.

Thragtusk stabilizes even better than Rhino does, making up for the extra mana. It trades profitably with Rhino, and the UWR decks need to spend two cards to answer it. Unlike Batterskull, which is often a turn too slow in all the wrong matchups, Thragtusk gains the life immediately.

Pulse is a typical card though it’s such a versatile answer. I can’t think of another card that handles Rhino, Liliana, and Lingering Souls so effectively.

The reason I mention it is because some people have suggested shaving it to make room for other cards. Pulse answers a lot of problems for the deck, and I wouldn’t cut them lightly.


Kills Lingering Souls, though I wouldn’t bring it in just for that. It also counters random removal spells, including Abrupt Decay, and can randomly answer Empty the Warrens tokens. It seems especially good vs. the mana-dork-laden version of Junk that Jacob Wilson Top 8’d with.

Currently my Disenchant of choice because we don’t have Path to Exile to answer Wurmcoil Engine. It might not be necessary, as the Tron matchup has felt solid, but the game is a lot easier when you can just answer the Wurmcoil instead of trying to grind through it with nonsense.

It’s nice to have a Disenchant vs. Twin. Besides the deck’s namesake, it also hits Blood Moon and Spellskite.

A solid answer to Inkmoth Nexus. I could see cutting it if I worked in some number of Ghost Quarter.

Decent against Affinity, great against Bogles, and a versatile sweeper that can come in vs. the Lingering Souls decks.

It makes sense. I’ve only played against Burn once so far, and the matchup seemed pretty close. If I played against it more often I’d play a second copy. I like it over clunkier cards that run into Skullcrack effects. 10 life for two mana is about as good as you can do, and it has some synergy with Snapcaster Mage.

Kills Wild Nacatl, Siege Rhino, and Tarmogoyf, and if you drthen aw one with a Snapcaster you get this nice curve of removal.

I started Ashiok in this slot. Ashiok was good in the same matchups as Sower, but it was hit-or-miss while Sower is more of a hit.

Sower plays a similar role to Lingering Souls in the grindy matchups in that it’s very good against Liliana’s edict. I like that it’s immune to Abrupt Decay and also take’s the opponent’s threats (Tasigur, Siege Rhino) that are immune to Abrupt Decay.

I used to have Negates in this slot. The original list had too many non-UB sources for it, since I had more basic Forests to support Scavenging Ooze. Then I cut Ooze, the mana improved, and a viewer pointed out that Countersquall is much better.

Unplayed Cards

Modern BUG has some great cards at its disposal, and there are a few that I’m still on the fence about.

It feels natural to throw a pair of Creeping Tar Pits in, but there are a lot of times where it’s nice to play a shockland tapped. When more of your mana base contains lands that have to come into play tapped, you’ll be shocking yourself more often just to cast your cards on time.

Also, one of Creeping Tar Pits better qualities is that it matches up well against Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but that card doesn’t exist in Modern.

I’d love to play a couple, but space is a concern.

One of my viewers suggested this one, and it could help shore up the Lingering Souls weakness while also working as a hate card for Twin and Tokens.

Caleb Durward


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