This weekend, MagicFest Las Vegas will play host to Modern Madness. Over the past few weeks, people have voted on a 64-deck bracket to determine which decks will battle it out for supremacy; now that we have our Top 8, we’re going to find out which of them is the Best Modern Deck. You can find Part 1 here.
To help us do this, and as part of the weekend’s MagicFest coverage, eight heroes will assemble, pick up one of these decks, and fight to the bitter end. Five of those heroes have already been determined: Seth “probably better known as SaffronOlive” Waterman, Cedric Phillips, Andrea Mengucci, James Turner, and Gavin Verhey. The other three positions are up for grabs–qualifiers for them will be run throughout the weekend at MagicFest Vegas itself!
Even if we don’t have our eight players confirmed, we do have our eight decks. Last time, we looked at four of the archetypes that will be represented at Modern Madness–today, we’re going to look at the remaining four!
The Second Four Modern Madness Decks
A favorite of old-school players who long for the days of powerful spells and weak creatures, Storm suffered ban after ban and still managed to stick around, most recently adopting Gifts Ungiven as a core card. Unfortunately for Storm fans, Modern Horizons didn’t bring too much to the deck outside of Fiery Islet (and Aria of Flame for the sideboard), and the deck hasn’t done much work recently.
Storm by Tadej Kadunc
1 Mountain 1 Fiery Islet 4 Island (335) 3 Shivan Reef 4 Spirebluff Canal 4 Steam Vents 4 Baral, Chief of Compliance 3 Goblin Electromancer 4 Desperate Ritual 4 Gifts Ungiven 2 Grapeshot Catapult 4 Manamorphose 2 Past in Flames 1 Peer Through Depths 4 Pyretic Ritual 3 Remand 3 Opt 1 Repeal 4 Serum Visions 4 Sleight of Hand Sideboard 1 Abrade 1 Aria of Flame 1 Dismember 1 Echoing Truth 1 Empty the Warrens 1 Lightning Bolt 1 Pieces of the Puzzle 1 Rebuild
It’s going to be tough for Storm. The Modern format has sped up significantly, and a turn-four Storm kill just won’t cut it a lot of the time. I can see it beating decks like Elves and Hardened Scales with a fast Goblin Electromancer draw–it might even be able to beat Phoenix, given the lack of disruption–but the other decks will be difficult to dispatch. Death and Taxes, Jund, and Mardu have the classic combo of pressure plus disruption, and Merfolk’s Force of Negations will be difficult to fight through. I don’t like Storm’s chances here; the deck is in a bad spot generally, and this field isn’t going to make it easy.
No doubt spurred on by the support of Dana Fischer, one of the world’s preeminent experts on the archetype, Elves crashed into the Top 8 of Modern Madness despite a relatively quiet time at the top tables. Elves is a creature-based, synergy-driven deck that snowballs towards an Ezuri or a Shaman of the Pack (or even sometimes a Craterhoof Behemoth) to win the game in one fell swoop.
Elves by Dana Fischer
4 Blooming Marsh 3 Cavern of Souls 4 Forest (347) 4 Gilt-Leaf Palace 1 Horizon Canopy 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Pendelhaven 4 Dwynen's Elite 2 Elves of Deep Shadow 4 Elvish Archdruid 4 Elvish Clancaller 4 Elvish Mystic 2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader 4 Heritage Druid 4 Llanowar Elves 2 Nettle Sentinel 2 Scavenging Ooze 4 Shaman of the Pack 4 Collected Company 2 Lead the Stampede Sideboard 3 Assassin's Trophy 1 Choke 2 Damping Sphere 1 Dismember 1 Fracturing Gust 1 Lead the Stampede 1 Reclamation Sage 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Shapers' Sanctuary 1 Surgical Extraction 2 Thoughtseize
Perhaps the most damning augury for Elves is that Dana herself abandoned the deck at a recent Grand Prix, instead playing Dredge in Dallas-Fort Worth. Elves is going to have a very tough time with this Top 8. Again, Jund and Mardu have infinite removal, while Izzet Phoenix and Hardened Scales are much faster than it. Death and Taxes seems pretty even. Elves has a chance against Merfolk, as neither have relevant disruption against the other, and might be able to put enough pressure on Storm to get across the line.
Death and Taxes
Vincent “PleasantKenobi” Chandler, one of the principal proponents of this deck, successfully mobilized enough people to get D&T into the Top 8–despite, by his own admission, the deck not being in the best position currently. All the same, he’s stuck to his guns, and was kind enough to provide me with the latest version of the deck.
Death and Taxes by RickyD, via PleasantKenobi
4 Ghost Quarter 4 Horizon Canopy 6 Plains (331) 2 Silent Clearing 4 Tectonic Edge 1 Eijango Castle 1 Cavern of Souls 1 Flagstones of Trokair 4 Giver of Runes 4 Thraben Inspector 4 Leonin Arbiter 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 4 Blade Splicer 4 Flickerwisp 4 Restoration Angel 1 Eldrazi Displacer 4 AEther Vial 4 Path to Exile Sideboard 4 Auriok Champion 1 Leonin Relic-Warder 2 Oblivion Ring 3 Rest in Peace 1 Settle the Wreckage 3 Stony Silence
Despite the initially gloomy prognosis, I actually think Death and Taxes is reasonably well set-up to fight through this Top 8. Its disruptive elements are perfect to contest Izzet Phoenix and Storm, and even Mardu Pyromancer, with its cheap spells and low threat density, looks like a good matchup. Jund will be difficult, of course, and Hardened Scales will usually just outrace it, but I think against both Merfolk and Elves, Death and Taxes isn’t in a bad spot. Overall, it looks like D&T has a surprisingly agreeable field to fight through.
Another deck that received some pretty serious upgrades with Modern Horizons, Mardu Pyromancers is a Jund-like midrange deck that squeezes every drop of juice from the value orange. With Seasoned Pyromancer, Unearth, and even draft all-star Smiting Helix, the deck is back in business.
Mardu Pyromancers by Fernando Gonzalez
4 Blackcleave Cliffs 2 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 1 Godless Shrine 4 Marsh Flats 1 Mountain (343) 1 Plains (331) 2 Sacred Foundry 2 Swamp (339) 4 Seasoned Pyromancer 1 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician 4 Young Pyromancer 2 Collective Brutality 4 Faithless Looting 2 Fatal Push 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 4 Lightning Bolt 4 Lingering Souls 4 Smiting Helix 3 Thoughtseize 3 Unearth
Much like Jund, I think Mardu is in a good spot in this Top 8. Its abundance of removal will take down Merfolk and Elves and should also give it a good shot against Hardened Scales. Izzet Phoenix could go either way–the Phoenix deck has recursion but will have to fight through both removal and Lingering Souls. It’s a toss-up against Jund (both decks are similar in playstyle and outlook), while Death and Taxes might make things tricky with its highly relevant disruption. Nonetheless, Mardu is up there with Jund, being one of the favored decks in this field.
Overall, I think Jund is the clear favorite to take down Modern Madness, given the state of the Top 8. Of course, the actual bracket could mess things up, but Jund has the best set of matchups across the board, followed by Mardu and then Izzet Phoenix. In any event, it’ll be a ton of fun to call these matches in Vegas, and I hope to have your company next Sunday as we get across it all!