Top 5 Modern Decks That Just Vanished (and Here's Why)

Modern has got a million (roughly speaking) decks to choose from and any of them could Top 8 the next tournament. However, with so many decks playable, so many too have fallen from grace—from the highest echelons relegated down to the dreaded tier three. Let's investigate the reasons for their disappearance.

Every week we could look at the snapshot of the metagame and if we look at enough of such snapshots, it'd paint us a proper metagame picture. From that picture, we could deduce what the best and worst performing decks are. Some decks stay on top for weeks or even months, while some are just a flash in the pan. The most surprising occurrence, however, is when one archetype can persist at the very top and then seemingly vanish from the metagame altogether. I want to discuss such decks and try to delve into the reason why they're struggling now.

Eldrazi Tron


reality smasher

Let's begin with the aggro brother of Green Tron. The deck always had the advantage over the big Tron in that it's more consistent against hate as it can naturally make land drops and cast its spells without the need to collect the legendary trifecta of Urza's lands. In addition, it can have the aggressive draws featuring turn two Thought-Knot Seer into turn three Reality Smasher, which can win a lot of games out of nowhere. Finally, it's always been the best Chalice of the Void deck in the format, which punished all the hyperefficient decks.

Now we barely see Eldrazi Tron anywhere anymore. Due to its midrange nature, it struggles a lot with Yorion, Sky Nomad strategies going go over the top. Solitude wrecks all the Eldrazi and even circumvents Reality Smasher's trigger. In addition, the deck is way too slow against Hammer and not nearly interactive enough. Blue-red Murktide Regent is not as bad as a matchup, but then again, Unholy Heat kills everything for one mana, there is Blood Moon and the Regent itself, which is bigger than anything Eldrazi Tron can present.

Unfortunately, the deck neither goes big enough, is fast enough, or interacts enough to succeed nowadays.

Humans


thalia's lieutenant

For a long time at the very top of the metagame and now … nowhere to be seen. The deck has been dubbed "Death and Taxes but good." It utilized cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, and Kitesail Freebooter to narrow down the opponent's options, Champion of the Parish, Thalia's Lieutenant, and Mantis Rider to put serious pressure on the opponent, and Reflector Mage plus Deputy of Detention to interact with the battlefield. In theory, it presents the perfect combination of interaction and clock to succeed in most metagames. Not in this one, however.

One of the biggest culprits is Fury, which is a nightmare for synergistic tribal decks. An early Fury devastates the battlefield, and if it's followed up with Ephemerate, that's literally "good game" on the spot. Murktide decks are no cakewalk either, running eight removal spells main—though Reflector Mage is admittedly a good answer to Murktide itself. In addition, the deck is neither interactive nor fast enough to compete against Hammer. We can see some pattern here as some of these points already applied to Eldrazi Tron as well. Clearly Hammer, Murktide, and Incarnation decks have a strong hold on the format. In order to succeed, your deck has to have game against the trifecta.

Green-White Heliod


spike feeder

Not that long ago, before Modern Horizons 2, Heliod was absolutely everywhere. That era was dubbed "Duel Deck: Heliod versus Prowess." The green-white deck's strength came from its Splinter Twin-esque type of playstyle where it had a perfectly fair plan with Ranger-Captain of Eos, Collected Company, attacking here and there, gaining a bit of life with Auriok Champion, and making your stuff bigger with Heliod, Sun-Crowned's trigger. However, the real power lay in the ability to "go off" on turn three. Heliod and Spike Feeder allow you to gain an arbitrarily large amount of life, and with a mana accelerant on turn one, you can deploy the whole combo two turns later. In addition, a single Collected Company can put both creatures onto the battlefield at instant speed, thus enabling surprise wins out of nowhere. The deck had a ton of micro-synergies at its disposal as well as one more infinite combo: Heliod plus Walking Ballista, which had formerly terrorized Pioneer.

Why is it not playable anymore? Well, let's do the trifecta check. Fury and Solitude are excellent at answering your combo. The decks that include Incarnations very often also run Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which circumvent infinite life. Hammer has Inkmoth Nexus so again—infinite life is not a guaranteed win. Even Murktide can technically win through infinite life by siding in Jace or using Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer to keep attacking and exiling the top of the deck to mill them. On top of that, Murktide has so much efficient removal that it will probably win the game early on. Last but not least, Prismatic Ending means Heliod is no longer safe on the battlefield.

The deck struggles for all these reasons. I do believe it can still operate as a tier two to three deck. But it has tumbled far from the top where it once towered.

Izzet Prowess


stormwing entity

Speaking of the Duel Deck era, the other half, Izzet Prowess, is also essentially gone. The deck had claimed and retained one of the top spots due to its resilience and exceptional speed. It used Lava Dart to blow out other small creature strategies, and it also double triggers prowess. It featured a ton of removal altogether, and if it came up against a creatureless deck, all of it could go face. One of the key threats was Stormwing Entity as it enjoyed virtual "hexproof." There were not that many copies of Path to Exile floating around, and it survived the very popular Fatal Push and often Lightning Bolt. Coming down on turn two after a Manamorphose was a headache, and some decks had to side in stuff like Mystical Dispute to be able to deal with it. Even when Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath was everywhere, Izzet Prowess persisted at the top tables.

Then Murktide Regent joined the party and quickly replaced the Entity, just as Modern Horizons 2's new red one-drops supplanted the titular prowess drops. There was simply no reason to stick to the prowess theme when you could migrate to Murktide: You still have a lot of efficient removal, but you have much better threats. Murktide itself has the same quasi-hexproof as the Entity but hits way harder and is even more resilient. Furthermore, Prowess had a bad matchup against Murktide itself as the latter went over the top. Finally, Murktide features a very powerful late game with all the card selection, while Prowess eventually runs out of gas.

Dredge


creeping chill

The very last deck on this list is Dredge, once Modern's premier graveyard strategy. Its strength came from the fact that it ran a supremely strong game one, which conventional interactive decks could not answer. While it struggled against the usual stuff, meaning graveyard hate and itself, when it went off, it was tough to stop. An endless horde of returning Prized Amalgam and Ox of Agonas paired with uncounterable Creeping Chill proved a solid strategy against most opponents.

The first hit was that so many decks started running incidental graveyard hate. At some point almost all the decks featured some Endurance or a silver bullet found with their Urza's Saga, sometimes even in game one, or Dauthi Voidwalker. Then, Hammer kills extremely fast and does not give anyone the time to recur all those Amalgams. It presents those turn two kills that Dredge cannot really interact with. All in all, the format is quite hostile. There will still be weekends when Dredge is able to come in and slay decks like Jund and White-Blue Control. But so far the deck remains in the dreaded second or third tier.

This is my list. Do you feel any other deck should have made the cut? Let us know in the comments. As always please remember to hold my hand and pass the turn together. Cheers!


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



3 Comments

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Zanzibar(03.12.2021 14:13)

Eldrazi tron can go easly over the top of Yorion deck with karn. Solitude is not so terrible for E-tron.
U/R match-up are not that bad with chalice of the void (unholy heat is not really good in the match-up).
Hammer match-up is difficult, but chalice of the void t2 in the play is a big deal for hammer and gain a lot of time.
With 2 finals at major IRL tournament in France with E-tron in the last month, i can only disagree with you.

unsonn(04.12.2021 16:25)

Zanzibar, you damn right ^^

MistuhShep(05.01.2022 16:43)

All of those decks do not exist in competitive environments anymore.
Some paper players still bring them because they love their decks and/or due to budget restrictions.
Any Modern deck with a winning strategy can spike a tournament with some luck and the skill of a good player. That doesn't make it viable though. Consistency and frequent results are key.

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