Modern Primer for GP Charlotte

There are a ton of Modern Grand Prix coming up in the next month. First Grand Prix Charlotte, then Grand Prix Copenhagen presented by ChannelFireball, and finally Grand Prix Singapore. There haven’t been many high-level Modern events recently, so I wanted to assemble a list of the top decks you should be prepared for, and also to include what I believe to be the best sideboard cards to fight those decks.

Splinter Twin

Antonio Del Moral Leon, 2014 Magic Online Championship

Splinter Twin has been around for as long as Modern has existed. One of the tried and true combo decks of the format, it uses Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in combination with Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite to make infinite copies of the blue creatures and attack for lethal damage. A large part of Splinter Twin’s power is that it really doesn’t have to devote too many deck slots to combo pieces, but instead can be less of a combo deck and more of a control deck. It is capable of winning with damage by controlling the board and attacking with small blue creatures, while also packing a finishing punch by using Lightning Bolt in combination with Snapcaster Mage to do damage in large chunks.

How to Beat It

Some of the best cards and sideboard cards against Splinter Twin are, naturally, cards that easily disrupt the combo. Cards like Abrupt Decay, Combust, and more recently Rending Volley, are extremely powerful as they can all eliminate a Pestermite or Deceiver Exarch through countermagic.


Robbie Schmidt, Grand Prix Vancouver 2015

Affinity is probably the most “all-in” deck in Modern. The deck aims to empty its hand as quickly as possible, providing multiple threats to deal with for the opponent. Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager both act as multiple threats in a sense, since they both pump other creatures. Ravager has to be dealt with, and then can use modular to pump another creature. Cranial Plating, on the other hand, which is likely Affinity’s best card, turns every creature into a threat that will kill you in no time.

How to Beat It

Affinity has always been a great game 1 deck. It tends to do worse in post sideboarded games mostly because the sideboard cards that are targeted for it are so incredibly powerful: Shatterstorm, Shattering Spree, Creeping Corrosion, Kataki, War’s Wage, Stony Silence, and Ancient Grudge are all so strong that simply drawing one is enough to win the game. In the case of Shatterstorm and Creeping Corrosion, the Affinity player will sometimes be left with no permanents at all.


Gerry Thompson, Standard Super League

Good old Jund. Jund has been making a bit of a resurgence recently, after the rise of Abzan at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. I think this is in part thanks to the power of Kolaghan’s Command, which has been showing up in more and more Jund lists. The strategy of Jund is basically the same as it has been for a long time: use cheap removal and discard to clear the way for efficient threats like Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and Liliana of the Veil.

How to Beat It

The best way to fight Jund is to find threats that can’t easily be dealt with by their cards, or at least, by a single card. The first couple that jump to mind are Lingering Souls and Keranos, God of Storms. Lingering Souls has been great against Jund forever. So good, in fact, that people started adding a 4th color to the deck in order to have access to them in the mirror match, when Jund was the most popular deck in the format. Other than Maelstrom Pulse or maybe Olivia Voldaren, it’s very hard for Jund to clean up Lingering Souls tokens without spending multiple cards on them. Keranos, on the other hand, is indestructible, and most Jund decks don’t have an effective way to remove him. The downside of Keranos is that he costs 5 and sits in your hand for a while, making him more vulnerable to Thoughtseize.


Jesse Hampton, Top 4 Pro Tour Fate Reforged

Abzan functions just like Jund in that it tries to use discard in combination with cheap and efficient creatures, as well as Lingering Souls, to control the game and defeat the opponent. The discard makes it very difficult to line up removal spells with all of their threats. Abzan has a slightly more powerful top-end in Siege Rhino, which is very effective against decks that rely on attacking with small creatures, or a deck like Burn that is purely focused on life total.

How to Beat It

The best way to fight Abzan is very similar to the way you want to fight Jund: powerful cards that are tough to answer that provide long-term, incremental advantage like planeswalkers or a card like Keranos.

UWR Control

Andrew Cuneo, Standard Super League

UWR Control plays like many historical control decks. It aims to use efficient removal and counterspells to deal with threats while gaining card advantage with cards like Electrolyze, Cryptic Command, Snapcaster Mage, and Supreme Verdict. One of the advantages of the deck is that, thanks to Celestial Colonnade, the deck doesn’t have to devote many slots to win conditions. This means that it is easier to gain and keep control of a game, since your hand doesn’t get cluttered with win conditions early in the game. One disadvantage is that the deck relies heavily on Path to Exile to deal with Tarmogoyf. While Path is a cheap and efficient answer to a creature, it’s also a bit of an annoyance to have to give your opponent an extra land in a deck with multiple copies of Mana Leak.

How to Beat It

The best cards against UWR Control are typically those that are both hard to counter and hard to answer. The one that first jumps to mind is Thrun, the Last Troll. As is typical against most control decks, discard is very effective, as it makes it hard for the control player to line their answers up to your threats. Liliana of the Veil and planeswalkers in general can be tough to beat if resolved, as there are often no direct answers, and the control player is forced to have and use two burn spells to remove them.


The Pantheon, Pro Tour Fate Reforged

Infect uses infect creatures in combination with powerful pump spells like Vines of Vastwood, Might of Old Krosa, and, most importantly, Become Immense to deal 10 points of Infect damage to the opponent as quickly as possible. When every creature in the deck has infect, (except for Noble Hierarch), the games play out with the opponent effectively starting at 10 life. Infect saw a bit of a surge at Pro Tour Fate Reforged due to the banning of Birthing Pod, which made for fewer Melira, Sylvok Outcasts—which is a very difficult card for Infect to beat. Now that Collected Company/Melira decks have been showing up, I’d expect Infect to be on the decline.

How to Beat It

Other than Melira, the best way to fight Infect is to fight its creatures. Cards that deal with small creatures cheaply and effectively like Gut Shot, Lightning Bolt, Sudden Shock, Dismember, or Disfigure are always going to be very effective against Infect. Cards that deal with small creatures in multiples, like Firespout or Pyroclasm, are also very effective. The most effective card is probably Night of Souls’ Betrayal, as it wipes the board and then locks them out.

RG Tron

Owen Turtenwald, Standard Super League

RG Tron can put extremely powerful threats into play very quickly, as early as turn three. Cards like Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Wurmcoil Engine are tough to beat at any point in a game of Magic, and certainly tough to beat if they enter play in the first few turns. Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying are both able to fetch Urza’s lands at will, and because of that, the deck can assemble Tron with stunning regularity and speed.

How to Beat It

Because Tron relies so much on its lands, the best way to fight the deck is to fight their mana, or render the Tron lands useless. Blood Moon, if it remains in play, can be extremely difficult for the Tron deck to beat, especially if under pressure. Sowing Salt is almost unbeatable. Cards like Ghost Quarter, Fulminator Mage, Tectonic Edge, or Molten Rain, especially in multiples, can repeatedly target Tron lands, and hopefully hold the Tron deck at bay long enough to finish them off.

Another card that is particularly good against Tron is Stony Silence. The deck actually has a lot of artifacts with activated abilities, and many of those artifacts draw cards, allowing the Tron player to dig through his or her deck. Stony Silence shuts that down.


Francis Choi, Mana Deprived Super Series

Scapeshift is another combo deck, like Splinter Twin, that plays pretty well as a control deck. With lots of counterspells such as Remand, Cryptic Command, and Izzet Charm, the deck aims to stay alive until it can hit a critical mass of lands, usually seven or eight, and cast Scapeshift. At that point, it searches for one or more copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, depending on how many other lands were sacrificed, to do 18-36 damage.

How to Beat It

Because by far the most efficient way for the Scapeshift deck to win is to cast Scapeshift, anything that can stop that from happening is effective. Slaughter Games to remove all copies of Scapeshift, counterspells to prevent the spell from resolving, or discard spells to strip them from the Scapeshift player’s hand are all viable strategies. Also, if you’re packing Blood Moons to deal with Tron, they might be worth sideboarding in as well. Scapeshift can’t win the game if Blood Moon is in play, but they do have many ways to remove or bounce it such as Nature’s Claim, Repeal, and Cryptic Command. Cryptic Command isn’t that easy to cast with Blood Moon in play, but because of all the green Rampant Growth-type cards, they will eventually.

Grixis Delver

Lars Dam, 2014 Magic Online Championship

Grixis Delver uses cheap and efficient spells to get cards into the graveyard while countering its opponent’s threats, removing their creatures, and trying to put Delver of Secrets and big delve creatures into play as quickly as possible. As you can see in Lars’s list above, aside from Delver creatures, the deck has no cards that cost above 3 mana, and only two cards that cost 3 mana: a Kolaghan’s Command and an Electrolyze. Everything being so cheap and efficient allows the deck to cast multiple spells every tun, make great use of its mana, and play a terrific tempo game.

How to Beat It

Delver is a very well-rounded deck with a good strategy. There honestly aren’t a lot single cards that are very good at fighting the deck. It’s important when going into the post-sideboard games against Delver that your mana curve not be too high, otherwise by the time you start casting spells, you’re too far behind in the tempo game.

One card that is particularly good against them, though, is Rest in Peace. Tasigur for 6 mana and Gurmag Angler for 7 mana are basically unplayable cards and it shuts off Snapcaster Mage from flashing back cards, which is one of the Delver deck’s best sources of card advantage.

Amulet Bloom

Alexander Hayne, Grand Prix Vancouver

Amulet Bloom is yet another combo deck, which actually has multiple combos. The primary plan is to use Amulet of Vigor in combination with Summer Bloom and bouncelands like Boros Garrison to cast a quick Primeval Titan, and search out Slayers’ Stronghold to give it haste and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion to give it double strike.

On top of that, Amulet Bloom plays Hive Mind and Summoner’s Pact/Pact of Negation for the immediate kill.

How to Beat It

The most important card to fight out of the Amulet deck is, unsurprisingly, Amulet of Vigor. Cheap artifact removal spells are pretty good, and need to be used to remove the Amulet as quickly as possible. Just like against most combo decks, discard is okay at stripping certain pieces of the combo. The issue here is that, especially on the draw, Amulet can get into play before a discard spell even has a chance to snag it. But the best way, overall, to fight the Amulet deck is probably to fight its lands, either with a card like Blood Moon or individual land destruction spells like Fulminator Mage or Molten Rain.


Aleksa Telarov, 2014 Magic Online Championship

Burn is a pretty self-explanatory strategy. The deck uses a few cheap creatures in combination with cards that deal damage directly to the opponent to try to reduce his or her life total to 0 as quickly as possible. Typically the deck doesn’t worry about what the opponent is doing at all and tries to simply race.

How to Beat It

The best way to fight burn is with life gain. Cards like Kitchen Finks, Spike Feeder, or Thragtusk can provide a much-needed cushion and enough time to actually win the race. Leyline of Sanctity is the best card against Burn, as it effectively makes half their cards uncastable.

Collected Company/Melira

Jasper De Jong, 2014 Magic Online Championship

Collected Company decks have moved in to take the place of Birthing Pod in the wake of its banning. Of course, Collected Company is a much less consistent card than Birthing Pod, but in many cases can be more explosive. The decks can still win by assembling a large army of creatures or using value creatures, sometimes in combination with Chord of Calling to overwhelm the opponent. The deck also still has the “infinite combo plan” of Melira plus a persist creature and a sacrifice outlet to either gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks or deal infinite damage with Murderous Redcap.

How to Beat It

Graveyard hate cards are good against the Melira deck, as it both shuts off their combo and prevents them from getting value from persist creatures. The best single card is probably Grafdigger’s Cage. It shuts off persist, it shuts off Chord of Calling, it shuts off Collected Company, and because the deck contains Collected Company, it’s hard for them to play a lot of Abrupt Decay-type cards, since the deck needs to be rich in creatures to hit when casting Collected Company. The deck is also light in removal for the same reason, so cards like Scavenging Ooze and Olivia Voldaren are very good at keeping control of the board and the game.

Modern is a huge format with tons of viable decks. Trying to figure out a Modern metagame and analyze it to determine what you’re going to play is one of the toughest things to do in Magic. I’m not sure what I’m going to play yet, but I legitimately believe that every deck I talked about is a reasonable option. Hopefully this will be of use to you if you’re attending one or more of the Modern Grand Prix, or if not, if you enjoy playing Modern on any other level of competition. Thanks for reading, see you again soon!


Scroll to Top