Data Analysis: The Top Modern Decks, March–April 2021


Do you want to know which decks are the best in Modern? What to play, what to beat? Ranking the decks based on data rather than opinion? Let's review results from Magic Online and see how we can analyze them to get the answers we're looking for. This marks the end of the post-Uro, pre-Strixhaven era.


End Phase: Concluding the Post-Uro Era

Do you want to know which were the best decks in Modern this past month, and where it will be safe to start after the release of Strixhaven? You've come to the the right place!

The issue with the Wizards website mentioned in my last article took a while to be fixed, and even afterward, we never got the results that went missing in the meantime. So this month's article will only focus on the data from the past three weeks instead of four. Happily, there were two Super Qualifiers in the past few days, so we still have eight official events to cover even though the ones from four weeks ago are unavailable. Here are the events we cover today:

List of MTGO Major Events between 2021-03-22 and 2021-04-12:
Modern Challenge 2021-03-27
Modern Challenge 2021-03-28
Modern Challenge 2021-04-03
Modern Challenge 2021-04-04
Modern Super Qualifier 2021-04-05
Modern Super Qualifier 2021-04-09
Modern Showcase Challenge 2021-04-10
Modern Challenge 2021-04-11

Some Quick Stats:
Number of decks in the data: 256
Number of different players in the data: 201
Number of different cards in the data: 686
Number of exact archetypes in the data: 51
Number of super archetypes in the data: 39
Number of rounds played (with Top 8): 2192
Average number of Swiss rounds: 8.12
Minimum number of Swiss rounds: 7
Maximum number of Swiss rounds: 10
Number of events in the data: 8

Besides, with the Modern metagame about to be shaken up with a new set containing multiple interesting cards for Eternal formats, we will simply have quick look at the results today, and leave for another time a comparison of the metagame depending on the type of event (Challenges versus Preliminaries versus unofficial events). Speaking of metagame, let's see what the view we use (based on the public number of matches played in major events, public meaning it is a deck that reached Top 32) provides for this month.

Archetype Presence

Proportion of exact archetypes in Top 32s, based on number of matches
Proportion of exact archetypes in Top 32s, based on number of matches

Even with another month, Heliod, Sun-Crowned still posts the most results (weighted by matches) with more than 12% of that share, whereas it was under 8% in our previous metagame snapshot. Izzet Prowess also remains in second place, going from 7.4% to 9.2% of the metagame share. So it looks like the meta did not adjust to fight those decks, and people rather applied the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" heuristic, making it appear more disequilibrated than last month. It could be worse though. No need to panic yet, especially with Strixhaven on the way. This set might turbocharge Prowess-like decks, but we shall see about that next month.

Burn sits at around 5.5% of the results; however, it is no longer third. Jund Shadow stole the spot. This is basically the Shadow Prowess deck you used to see in the previous articles, but with a green splash to become stronger against the two most present decks. Tarmogoyf provides a threat that is not kept in check by Auriok Champion or killed by Lightning Bolt, Hexdrinker (not in all the lists yet) also helps dealing with the Champion, and the access to green in the sideboard offers cleaner answers to Heliod such as Deglamer.

The breakout deck this month is Niv to Light, which Pioneer players should be familiar with. We saw last month that it had the single best win rate in our data set, and it looks like it was no fluke. Functional thanks to the strong mana fixing of the format, it is also full of removal and loads of big card advantage spells, making it extremely strong in fair matchups, and it even gets to be supposedly favored against Heliod. If you wish to learn more about this deck, check out this very recent and in-depth guide, available in both English and Italian.

Closer to the rogue side, Yawgmoth Combo also posted a notable increase in results lately. The aim here is to get Yawgmoth, Thran Physician into play along with two other undying creatures such as Geralf's Messenger. One can then use Yawgmoth's first activated ability over and over, and win thus from some triggers—such as the Messenger's, or Zulaport Cutthroat's. It can also run a high number of singletons due to the number of tutor spells it includes, either to find a combo piece or a silver bullet. You can find a detailed explanation of the combo and reasoning behind some card choices on Reddit. Even though it is a little outdated with regard to card selection, the rulings did not change.

Ranking the Decks

As before, we will use the win rates of each archetype in addition to their presence in order to establish a ranking and a tier list. We can display those win rates for the most present decks the following way:

Win rates and confidence intervals in percent
Win rates and confidence intervals in percent (click to view at full resolution)

As usual, the numbers are high since we only have decks that reached the Top 32 of major events. If you do not want to see this as a "true" win rate, simply think about it as how well a deck did on average if it reached a Top 32: if it was rather at the lower end of the Top 32 or rather reached the Top 8 for instance. The confidence intervals are correlated to the number of matches played (which is one of the reasons why it is used as the presence metric): the more a deck was played, the smaller the interval is. This is why Heliod Combo exhibits a relatively small interval for example.

We can see that Green Tron posted results of a high quality, as did Amulet Titan, Living End, and Esper Control, whereas the Shadow variants failed to rack up impressive numbers. Among the very most present decks, it is interesting to note that Heliod Combo, Izzet Prowess, and Burn all seem to have very average results to show for themselves compared to their peers, which might be related to the higher sample size on those decks. Of course, in part due to that high sample size, Heliod still accounts for the highest lower bound on its confidence interval.

If we display both the win rate and the presence for all the decks in the data, we see the following:

Win rate by presence for all archetypes in Top 32s
Win rate by presence for all archetypes in Top 32s (click to view at full resolution)

Among the decks with the highest win rates—but dubious sample sizes—you should already be familiar with Mill if you read my first article. You should also be quite capable to guess what UBRG Shadow is: a Jund Shadow deck as mentioned earlier, but also splashing blue for counterspells and Snapcaster Mage. Otherwise, you can check out the Top 4 Super Qualifier decklist.

As for Giants, it is a Temur ramp/control deck that quickly appeared after Kaldheim gave us Invasion of the Giants. But it just as quickly got overshadowed by the truly overpowered decks of the time and fell off the radar after the banning of the Giant Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Now it reached the finals of Sunday's Challenge, which might lead more people to play it in the coming weeks … if it does not fall into obscurity again with the incoming meta change due to Strixhaven.

For our tier list, as mentioned before, we only keep the decks whose presence is above the average presence in the data. With this "zoom", we get:

Win rate by presence for the most represented archetypes in Top 32s
Win rate by presence for the most represented archetypes in Top 32s

We now compute a normalized combination of the presence and the win rate, as detailed in the last article, and get the following values for each deck:

Sum of the normalized metrics for the most represented archetypes in Top 32s
Sum of the normalized metrics for the most represented archetypes in Top 32s

Through a divide in the middle based on the average of those values (in green), to which we add or remove a standard deviation of the value (in red), we can split the decks in four categories, and we get our tier list!

Tier list based on the sum of the normalized metrics for the most represented archetypes in Top 32s
Tier list based on the sum of the normalized metrics for the most represented archetypes in Top 32s

Bonus: Modern Series Full Results

During the period where Wizards did not post Magic Online results, a decently large unofficial Modern event took place: the March NRG Series MTGO Open. As always, the entirety of the results were posted. You can find the breakdown on Reddit and the matchup matrix on


This is it for this month's Modern breakdown. We shall soon see how Strixhaven will impact this metagame, and whether Heliod stays on top or not. Maybe Vanishing Verse will help deal with it? You can also expect prowess decks to be widely played at the beginning with all the new magecraft options, especially Clever Lumimancer and/or Leonin Lightscribe. I saw easily 30 cards from Strixhaven being discussed for Modern, so we can expect at least a few to make a decent impact. Reddit can give you an idea of what to look out for but doesn't cover all cards, so you should definitely read further articles on Cardmarket Insight to find out more.

See you next month to check up on which cards made some waves in the meantime!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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ert4i(15.04.2021 15:48)

Awsome step by step article... That is high level!

Grakon(15.04.2021 06:23)

Ich frage mich, was eigentlich mit meinen "Humans" passiert ist - warum die auf einmal komplett aus dem Meta gefallen sind. :)

Magic-Rune(15.04.2021 07:27)

Grakon Vielleicht liegt es am Tempo, dass die Humans einfach nicht so explosiv sind wie z. B. Die Prowess Listen oder wenig Zugriff auf Heliod Combo haben

MistuhShep(15.04.2021 08:09)

Grakon: Humans ist vor fast einem Jahr aus dem Meta gefallen, kurz nach der heißen Companions-Phase. Das Deck ist für Magic-Verhältnisse schon ziemlich lange schlecht positioniert und wird es auf absehbare Zeit auch bleiben. Es ist schlicht zu fair und kann sich gegen die populären Archetypen nicht behaupten. Ein typischer Fall eines F. I. R. E.-Design-Opfers.

TobiHenke(15.04.2021 09:05)

"You can leave your comment in English using the form below."

Well, evidently you can also ignore this. But it would be nice to have such an interesting discussion available to a larger audience, meaning: in English.

Aliquanto(15.04.2021 09:32)

From what I understand with my weak German, may I suggest you to check this to find out the last time when Humans was deemed to be relevant in the format?

Https://www. Reddit. Com/r/ModernMagic/comments/l05nma/a_databased_review_of_2020_in_modern_meta_by_meta/

Especially that video: https://drive. Google. Com/drive/folders/1O63ikjIc3MH4zfmZoxjMeQKg3YagzzGd

You can see how Humans kept on falling after ZNR. Basically, lots of decks got a bunch of upgrades, but Humans hardly got anything significant in the past months/years.
So some MU that were once very good became much closer (Shadow for instance), whereas some bad MU rose, especially Heliod atm, which Humans has lots of troubles to deal with.

Well, I guess Humans got Kudro in Ikoria (but it's not like GY is overused atm), and could replace Deputy of Detention with Skyclave Apparition (but it is not as much of an upgrade compared to decks that simply didn't have access to that effect before).

Grakon(15.04.2021 11:26)


You are right - i am very sorry for that.

"I wonder what actually happened to my "Humans" - why they suddenly fell completely out of the meta. :)"

Grakon(15.04.2021 11:32)


Thank you very much for your writing. It seem's that your german is not very bad. So i must hope, that Human is becoming one or two nice new additions in the future. I must admint, that i did not realize that Human is in such a bad position right now (in the Meta).

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