Week two of Modern Horizons 2 on Magic Online is in the books and the format is looking even crazier than last week. The latest deck dump is showing hundreds of different decks going 5-0, dozens of entirely new decks, and powerful new upgrades to existing decks.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the brand new decks that have been birthed thanks to Modern Horizons 2. Most of these will be entirely new archetypes that could never have been possible without MH2, but we’ll also make a stop by an old favourite from Modern’s past that has been rebirthed in a completely new shell thanks to the new set. Let’s dive in!
One of the hottest new decks to show up post-MH2 is the Temur Rhinos deck. The core of the deck uses Shardless Agent and Violent Outburst to Cascade into Crashing Footfalls on turn three. Spending three mana to create two 4/4s with trample is well ahead of the curve, even by Modern’s fast standards, and that’s to say nothing of casting multiple Crashing Footfalls in short succession.
The challenge in building the deck is fitting in cheap interaction to fight your opponent without having any cards with mana value less than three. The first way to do this is with “free” spells that can be cast by pitching a card in hand instead of paying their mana cost. The first of these is Force of Negation, which pulls double duty in this list as both a protective spell and a way to force your Violent Outburst through counterspells on your opponent’s end step. To handle big creature threats is MH2 newcomer Subtlety. There are a number of threats in Modern that Subtlety handles really nicely, from Stormwing Entity to Primeval Titan. I would expect to see Subtlety in many and varied lists going forward, though it clearly shines in a deck like this that is simply looking to buy time to land big game-enders.
For on-board interaction, the deck takes a leaf out of Standard’s book and turns to the Adventure creatures Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant. With a mana value of three, these spells won’t be hit by the three-mana Cascade cards, but can still be cast for two mana to deal with anything that slips through the deck’s countermagic. Likewise, MH2 new-to-Modern reprint Fire//Ice has a mana value of four when in your deck, but either half can be cast for two mana. Fire is obviously good for cleaning up any Monastery Swiftspears or Giver of Runes that will give you a hard time, while Ice is good for either delaying a threat for a turn or tapping down a key land on end step to guarantee you can resolve a haymaker on your turn.
Filling out the rest of the list are a couple of copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Cryptic Command. Jace plays a particularly key role in the list since it allows you to get any drawn copies of Crashing Footfalls back into your deck (with the help of a fetch land) while helping you dig towards whatever it is that you need.
There is also a four-colour version of the Rhinos deck that touches white for Ardent Plea and Teferi, Time Raveler. I’m personally more of a fan of this build—having a full twelve Cascade cards means that you will be starting with a pair of Rhinos on turns three and four in most of your games. Modern is a format of high power, so it favours decks that can do their powerful thing most consistently. Teferi, Time Raveler is particularly well positioned at the moment, single-handedly shutting down various Cascade strategies, while bouncing tokens made by Urza’s Saga or Crashing Footfalls.
If you are looking to play the white version, I would make cuts to the number of Cryptic Commands and Bonecrusher Giants in the list below to make room.
Here is Naidos’ 5-0 Temur build:
We have seen multiple iterations on Reanimator decks featuring a core of Unmarked Grave to put an Archon of Cruelty in the graveyard, then resurrect it with either Persist or Priest of Fell Rites. Some lists have also run alternative reanimation targets such as Serra’s Emissary or Ashen Rider, but most recent lists have been eschewing these. Priest of Fell Rites is particularly powerful for this archetype, mostly thanks to its Unearth ability. The creature itself dies to basically every removal spell in Modern, but unless your opponent can kill you or remove your graveyard, you will be threatening a reanimation on turn five despite their removal. Better yet, if you already have the Archon in your graveyard and just need a reanimation spell, you can use Unmarked Grave to search up the Priest and set up a reanimation the following turn.
The early Reanimator lists were fairly “all in” on the reanimation plan. The trouble with those builds is that they were much more vulnerable to disruption and they completely folded to graveyard hate like Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace.
The list I’ve included below has not one, but two backup plans. The first is a Stoneforge Mystic package, with four copies of Stoneforge to search up either Batterskull or newcomer Kaldra Compleat. I like this decision a lot—this is a consistently powerful strategy that only takes up six deck slots, is capable of winning the game on its own, and doesn’t rely on the graveyard at all. The inclusion of this package presents quite a quandary for your opponents in sideboarding, since they are forced to keep their cheap removal, despite how bad it is against the Reanimator deck’s main game plan.
The third plan that the deck finds room for is the “Incarnations'' package: Grief or Solitude in combination with either Ephemerate or Malakir Rebirth. The goal is to Evoke one of the Incarnations as early as turn one and then play either Ephemerate or Rebirth to get a second enter-the-battlefield trigger and you get to keep the creature. Grief + Ephemerate on turn one is particularly brutal, since you will shred your opponent’s hand of any potential answers to your reanimation or Stoneforge plans plus add a relevant threat to the board. Solitude plus a blink effect is more likely to come up later in the game once your opponent has two or more creatures in play, but is no less devastating.
Here is iCtomoe0912’s 5-0 list:
Affinity was a staple of Modern from the very inception of the format right up until the banning of Mox Opal. Modern Horizons 2 has seen the rebirth of the deck, and now with actual Affinity cards! Although it has always retained the name “Affinity”, it has actually been many years since the deck actually played any cards with Affinity for artifacts. There is a wide range of builds floating around at the moment and no consensus at all as to what is best, so let’s go through some of the cards that are seeing play.
Firstly, the new Affinity builds have a somewhat different game plan to the old Affinity decks. Because the deck is once again actually playing cards with Affinity for artifacts, there is a high priority placed on having a critical mass of free artifacts. Most lists are playing full playsets of Ornithopter, Memnite, and Welding Jar. The real critical difference is that the new decks are no longer playing Arcbound Ravager—the deck is now totally reliant on having a board full of artifacts in order to make cards like Thought Monitor cheap and cards like Nettlecyst function. Ravager was once a staple of the archetype but now runs counter to the rest of the deck, so it’s time to leave them on the sidelines.
The most important new tool is Thought Monitor. One of the weaknesses of Affinity is that you might run out your hand of free artifacts even as early as turn one, but then sit there with nothing to do after that. Thought Monitor both lets you gas back up and add a relevant body to the board ready to be suited up with a Cranial Plating or Nettlecyst. Cranial Plating was always Affinity's best payoff, capable of turning every creature in the deck into a must-kill threat. Newcomer Nettlecyst is essentially another set of Platings for the deck, asking a little more in terms of mana investment but adding to the creature’s toughness as well as power.
Thought Monitor motivates you to build your deck to accommodate Affinity for artifacts, which then incentivises more cards with Affinity. Frogmite is one of the original Affinity creatures and finally makes a return in the latest builds. Sojourner’s Companion is a strictly better Myr Enforcer—which is also seeing play in some builds—and adds to the critical mass of free or cheap artifacts in the deck.
Other commonly played cards in the new builds include Thoughtcast and Metallic Rebuke. Some lists are going as far as having full playsets of both Thought Monitor and Thoughtcast, really maxing out on card advantage and pulling back on the all-in aggro style that was more common with the Ravager builds. Metallic Rebuke plays in a similar vein, letting the deck play a longer, more controlling and interactive game.
The mana base for new Affinity is really packing some power these days. Affinity may well be the best home for Urza’s Saga, which may indeed be the most powerful card in Modern right now. The Karnstruct tokens are effectively quasi-copies of Master of Etherium, a card the deck was happy paying three mana and a maindeck spell slot for. Some builds have also been incorporating some of the new artifact lands such as Razortide Bridge and Mistvault Bridge. I’m not sure how I feel about this—while I can see the potential power, especially if you are going hard on the Affinity creatures + Plating/Nettlecyst plan, I’m concerned about the cost of having tapped lands in your dump-your-hand aggressive deck.
If you like to tinker with your decks rather than just copy the “best” list, Affinity would be a great choice to test your skills; there are wide disagreements about everything about the deck, and all seem to be having a degree of success at this early stage.
Here is Freerollin’s 5-0 list:
As always, if you’ve got any sweet MH2 builds you’d like to share, feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter @Calm_Mirror. I’ll be back next week to talk about more sweet stuff that MH2 has brought to our favourite format!
Sam Maher has been playing competitive Magic since 2003. In the last two years he has accumulated multiple Grand Prix day 2 appearances, PTQ top 8s, and MCQ top finishes. He is generally happiest when stealing his opponent’s cards with Thief of Sanity and The Scarab God. You can follow him on his Youtube drafting channel Draft Punks and on Twitter @Calm_Mirror.