Introduction to Modern: Part 1

Welcome to Modern

Modern is a non-rotating format that starts from 8th edition and includes any set release after that (not including supplemental sets such as conspiracy). Modern was created as a way for players to still have some uses for their old standard cards. It also lets people play old standard decks that they used to find fun. Modern is a very diverse format with dozens of decks being capable of taking out a tournament on any given day. It is a format that greatly rewards a player for knowing their deck inside and out. Recently there were two big bannings in the format so most players are still trying to adjust and work out which deck is going to be the dominant deck. I am going to discuss just a few of the main decks that you will need to get familiar with. Lets start by looking at the aggressive decks of the format.



Creatures (28)
Arcbound Ravager
Vault Skirge
Steel Overseer
Signal Pest
Etched Champion
Master of Etherium

Spells (3)
Galvanic Blast

Artifacts (12)
Cranial Plating
Springleaf Drum
Mox Opal
Lands (17)
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Spire of Industry
Darksteel Citadel

Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Blood Moon
Chalice of the Void
Etched Champion
Galvanic Blast
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Stubborn Denial

Affinity is a deck focused on playing as many cheap artifacts as possible then using a Cranial Plating or Arcbound Ravager to push through huge amounts of damage. It is called Affinity because many of the cards that used to be in the deck had the affinity for artifacts mechanic. While the deck has moved away from these cards (thoughtcast etc) the name has stuck. The strengths of this deck is how fast it is able to kill players while also being quite resilient to removal. The weakness of the deck, however, is the amount of hate cards that players have access to, cards such as Stony Silence, Hurkyl’s Recall, Shatterstorm, Ancient Grudge.


Creatures (16)
Goblin Guide
Monastery Swiftspear
Wild Nacatl
Eidolon of the Great Revel

Spells (24)
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Atarka’s Command
Boros Charm
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
Lands (20)
Copperline Gorge
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Destructive Revelry
Path to Exile
Relic of Progenitus
Stony Silence

Burn is a deck that wants to deal twenty damage as quickly as possible. It uses a combination of spells that do damage (Lightning Bolt, Atarka’s Command etc) and very aggressive creatures such as Goblin Guide. This deck is popular  because lots of decks in modern take a large amount of damage from their own manabase, which means the burn deck rarely has to do the full twenty damage to get the win. These decks are usually three colours (red, white and green), and games are over very quickly which is also a big plus. The strength of the deck is that it has a great game one against most of the format and it punishes any deck that stumbles early on. The main weakness of the deck is the manabase – while it is not too hard to have the various colours needed for the deck, sometimes if the deck draws too many or too few then it can not keep up. Another weakness is the amount of good lifegain available in the format – while there are ways to stop the lifegain it can be tough to deal with.


Creatures (14)
Dryad Arbor
Glistener Elf
Noble Hierarch
Blighted Agent

Spells (27)
Apostle’s Blessing
Become Immense
Blossoming Defense
Might of Old Krosa
Distortion Strike
Mutagenic Growth
Spell Pierce
Twisted Image
Vines of Vastwood
Lands (19)
Breeding Pool
Horizon Canopy
Inkmoth Nexus
Misty Rainforest
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Ceremonious Rejection
Kitchen Finks
Nature’s Claim
Spell Pierce
Tormod’s Crypt
Twisted Image
Viridian Corrupter

The main goal of infect is to deal 10 poison counters as quickly as possible. The deck runs Glistener Elf, Blighted Agent and Inkmoth Nexus, which with a combination of pump spells (Vines of Vastwood, Become Immense) mean any one of the creatures is capable of killing someone in just one swing. Infect took a bit of a hit in the recent bannings when Gitaxian Probe was banned. Probe lets the deck check if the coast iss clear while also cycling for two life and filling up the graveyard for Become Immense. It has fallen down in popularity but don’t expect it to stay down for long as it is still a very powerful deck. The strength of infect is that it can kill a player in just a single swing. This can happen as early as turn two but usually happens on turn three. The weakness of the deck is that it only runs the twelve infect creatures so it struggles against decks that are packed with removal spells.

Death’s Shadow 

Creatures (13)
Death’s Shadow
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Street Wraith

Spells (23)
Abrupt Decay
Collective Brutality
Temur Battle Rage
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Inquisition of Kozilek
Kolaghan’s Command

Planeswalkers (2)
Liliana of the Veil

Artifacts (4)
Mishra’s Bauble
Lands (18)
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Collective Brutality
Fatal Push
Fulminator Mage
Liliana, the Last Hope
Maelstrom Pulse
Scavenging Ooze
Surgical Extraction

This deck is built to take advantage of the huge potential of Death’s Shadow. It deals a large amount of damage to itself and then plays a shadow. It really takes advantage of cards like Temur Battle Rage and Ghor-Clan Rampager to push through huge amounts of damage. It also took a bit of a hit with the banning of Gitaxian Probe, but it is very much still a very powerful deck that you will need to look out for. The main strength of this deck is just how complex and resilient it is, as it is very hard for opponents to play around the large variety of options available. This leads to quick victories in the right hands. This is, however, also a big weakness of the deck, as it is very complicated and difficult to master. Another weakness is just how much damage it does to itself, as this can make games against other aggressive decks very hard to navigate.

Part 2 on the way

This covers just a few of the main aggro decks in the format. Next time I will cover some of the more midrange and control type decks. Don’t rely just on me though – go out and read about as many decks as possible. Modern is a format that will reward for having a great knowledge of cards and decks.

Liked it? Take a second to support ATGN on Patreon!

Leave a Reply