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Modern Power Rankings – Week of 9/21/20

Welcome to the Modern Power Rankings. This is a list of top Modern decks, which we will maintain and periodically update here on Channelfireball.com. The criteria is a mix of metagame share, frequency of top results, and author’s personal opinion. You can use it for inspiration if you’re looking to pick up a new deck, or to give you an idea of what decks you’ll need to take seriously if you want to go deep in a big Modern tournament.

Updates on Deck Classification

Modern is home to easily over a hundred established decks. In many cases, these archetypes blur together, plus there’s limitless opportunity to customize and brew. Don’t be discouraged if your favorite deck doesn’t make the list–it doesn’t mean that it can’t be a winning strategy!

The format looks a bit strange right now. Many decks share similar cores, but deviate on a few card choices, or choose different methods for actually winning the game. This is particularly true when it comes to the U/G/x Uro decks. In previous installments, I’d been using the presence or absence of particular cards like Wilderness Reclamation and Growth Spiral to distinguish between these decks.

Wilderness Reclamation is falling somewhat out of favor lately, and isn’t all that essential to the gameplan anyway. Instead, I’ll start going by a simpler system of distinguishing by color combination: Bant, Temur, Sultai, and “Omnath.”

Honorable Mentions

 We’re fresh off the release of Zendikar Rising. This means that we’re starting to see glimpses of the potential that some of these new cards have, but there hasn’t been quite enough time for them to supplant the tried and true strategies.

Perhaps the most obvious winner from Zendikar Rising is U/B Mill. For years, this has been a deck I’d encounter once in a while in the Magic Online Leagues, but I always considered it to be mostly a “just for fun” type of strategy. Now Zendikar Rising allows this archetype to use both Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab, leveling up both the power and consistency. Bloodchief’s Thirst and Maddening Cacophony offer some nice additional options.

U/B Mill won first place in a recent Modern Challenge. Let’s see if it cracks into the Top 10 for the next installment of the Power Rankings.

The next honorable mention is Soulherder, which also won a recent Modern Challenge, and has been championed by CFB’s own Gabriel Nassif. This deck doesn’t have enough metagame share to make it onto the rankings right now, but it’s becoming clear that it’s capable of big things in the hands of a skilled pilot.

10. Temur

Taking the place of what I used to call “Wilderness Reclamation” or “Big Blue,” Temur is a much more general term for the category of decks that plays with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Wrenn and Six, and a shell of effective removal spells and permission. Field of the Dead is typically involved in the endgame in one way or another. Scapeshift or Hour of Promise are optional ways to power up the manabase.

9. Sultai

Sultai is likewise powered by Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. However, this color combination lends itself to more of a well-rounded, midrange game. The Black answer cards like Thoughtseize, Abrupt Decay, and Assassin’s Trophy are highly flexible, meaning that Sultai has solid game against just about everything.

8. Urzatron

 Urzatron was a defining force at both of the Modern Pro Tours of 2019. In London, it was the most played deck, and in Barcelona it took the trophy when Hogaak came up short. Since that time, its fortunes have been rising and falling, but there’s no denying the power of this deck. Lately I’ve been seeing Karn, the Great Creator making his way into Traditional Tron and Eldrazi Tron alike.

7. Primeval Titan (All Forms)

Primeval Titan is one of the defining cards of Modern. If your deck doesn’t have a plan for beating turn 4 Titan, then you should probably go back to the drawing board.

Strangely, it’s not Valakut or Amulet of Vigor decks where Primeval Titan has been showing up the most lately. Instead, it’s in techy creature-based decks featuring Aether Vial, Eladamri’s Call, and Elvish Reclaimer. I suppose having all of those other creatures makes for an effective backup plan if ramping straight to a Titan doesn’t work.

6. Devoted Druid / Chord of Calling / Creature-Based Combo Decks

Among the most fun and flexible decks in Modern are the creature-based combo decks. Devoted Druid + Vizier of Remedies is the most common, but you’ll also see Heliod, Sun Crowned + Walking Ballista as well as combos based on Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. There’s even tons of variety within each of these combos. Regardless, having a solid base of creatures combined with cards like Collected Company, Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, or Eladamri’s Call to find your key pieces makes for a highly effective strategy.

5. Azorious Control

Many control players are choosing to adopt Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath to get that extra raw power. Still, Classic Azorious remains a very simple and effective deck. Permission spells are good, board sweepers are good, and Jace and Teferi are among the most powerful planeswalkers available in the format. What’s not to like?

Note that U/W Stoneforge is a strong alternative if you’re looking for something just a tiny bit more proactive.

4. Ponza (Gruul)

Ponza is one of Modern’s big decks of 2020. It’s a red/green deck that uses Utopia Sprawl and Arbor Elf to accelerate into the most potent midrange threats and disruptive cards available. As mana hungry decks come to define the format, and as Boil becomes one of the highest-value sideboard cards, Ponza becomes an appealing choice.

3. Humans

Humans has been a huge winner over the last two weeks, catapulting from “unranked” to one of the top positions on this list. It’s fast, disruptive, consistent, and punishing, and it’s taken the title in more than one Magic Online Modern Challenge recently.

2. Death’s Shadow

Although it’s not typically one of the most popular decks in Modern, I’m never surprised when Death’s Shadow shows up at the top tables. And it’s been winning a scary amount lately. It’s punishing to its opponents; the card quality is high; it’s customizable; and it really rewards the skill of its pilot. Grixis, Jund, and four-color Shadow decks have all been popping up lately.

1. Red Prowess

Amidst an infusion of new cards from Zendikar Rising and a lot of sweet strategies putting up strong finishes, there’s still nothing that’s able to supplant Red Prowess as the number one deck. The density of great Red cards that cost one and two mana (or zero mana, for that matter) just makes this strategy so effective.

While traditional Burn gets a headache from even the first three points of lifegain from Uro, the Red Prowess decks unload massive, massive damage when their creatures go unchecked, and can sometimes even ignore the Titan. You get out ahead and punish people while they sculpt their hands and lay tapped lands on the battlefield. Sprinkle in some well-placed graveyard hate or a Boil off the sideboard, and you have a rock solid deck that happens to be a good choice against the other strategies on this list.

Red Prowess can come in the form of Monored (most aggressive), R/B (more midrangey), and R/U (in the middle). All three options are very strong.

Checking in with Team CFB

 I asked my teammates what they’d play in an upcoming Modern event.

Andrea – I’d play Humans. It’s a fun, fast deck that has game against all the Modern strategies. It won both a Modern Challenge and a Magic Online PTQ recently.

Gabriel – Soulherder with Aether Vial. The vial draws are pretty obscene.

Luis – Temur Uro. Mystic Sanctuary, Uro, and field of the dead all combine to give the deck an insane lategame. With Lightning Bolt and Wrenn and Six as removal, and Cryptic Command and Remand as disruption.

Martin – I’d play Humans because I like aggressive decks and it’s the last deck I did well with in Modern. But I definitely respect the power of Uro also.

And for me (Reid) – Jund Death’s Shadow. It’s a top strategy where I get to play with Thoughtseize and have some fun combat steps.

Discussion

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