Top Choices for Modern, Legacy, Pauper and Vintage

by Andreas Petersen on 19 August 2019, Monday

Andreas Petersen


At the end of last year, Wizards announced a new tournament structure on Magic Online where players who play Leagues and the weekly Challenges would be rewarded on top of the regular prizes in the form of "Format Points". With 35 points, players can join the quarterly playoff events of the given format from where the top 8 will qualify for the yearly Format Championship. That means that 32 magicians of each format will be qualified for the four Format Championships in the end of the year, and that the respective winners of those tournaments will get invited to the Magic Online Championship Series while also getting a Mythic Championship invitation on top of it.


Personally, I was playing a bunch of Challenges on the weekend even before this announcement, so naturally it got me even more motivated to keep up with the four formats in question: Modern, Legacy, Pauper, and Vintage. Being over halfway into the season, I thought it would be fun to take a moment to talk about my current favorite deck for those formats. I hope you'll find it interesting.


Modern: Izzet Phoenix


I realize that Hogaak is all the rage right now, but I'm 100% sure that it is temporary thanks to a ban in the near future. That being said, the deck is beatable for Phoenix thanks to Thing in the Ice and Surgical Extraction in the main deck plus additional help from the sideboard.


Izzet Phoenix is a great deck because its threats aren't answered by the same cards and it puts your opponent in a tough spot when deciding whether or not to sideboard in graveyard hate. On top of the awkward spots it forces its opponent into, it has some unbeatable nut draws and a natural consistency thanks to the many cantrips. Speaking of cantrips, playing 16 of those makes sure you will see your impactful sideboard more often and up your chances of winning that way as well.


You need a lot of practice with the deck in order to build your sideboard, not to mention use it correctly. A simple sideboard plan from the web will not do the trick, as you need to react to your opponent's style of playing and sideboarding strategy for potential game threes.


Here is my current list:


Legacy: Izzet Delver


Legacy right now is dominated by different decks playing Wrenn and Six, which I wrote about previously and also about how to beat them. This means Young Pyromancer is not the reliable workhorse it once was. In order to keep a high enough threat count, it's still included in my deck, but I'm very careful about it getting eaten up by the pesky planeswalker.


Izzet Delver lets you win games fast on the back of the powerful trio of Delver of Secrets, Wasteland and Daze, but also has a surprising amount of staying power thanks to Dreadhorde Arcanist which lets you recycle cantrips and burn spells if left unchecked.


The biggest enemies for this deck are definitely Chalice of the Void for one, even though playing fewer one-drops and more two- and three-cost threats helps out a little, and Tarmogoyf thanks to its immunity to Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning. True-Name Nemesis and Young Pyromancer or even flying over with a flipped Delver are all ways to beat it, so we have the tools to fight.


At this moment I'm playing the following:


Pauper: Mono-Red Aggro


After the recent bannings of Gitaxian Probe, Daze and Gush following the unacceptable level of dominance by Dimir Delver, I predicted that we would enter Tronland and all midrange decks would struggle immensely. I was somewhat correct, and different versions of Tron are dominating the top 8s. Arcum's Astrolabe, a Modern Horizons printing that looks innocent on the surface, is also turning the format on its head, either inviting Tron to play a lot of colors or Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk decks to grind even harder. I could grab the bull by the horns and play some grindy matchups like a brave man, but instead I opted to try and punish these durdly decks for taking too long to set up and attack them with a bunch of red creatures and finish them off with burn spells.


The game plan is fairly simple with this deck, but you will quickly learn the importance of playing out the correct creature because of their respective drawbacks. You can't afford to draw too many lands and opposing sideboard cards against Burn will sometimes be backbreaking against you. Other than that, you have great chances against the field - especially when you expect to play a lot against Tron.


The sideboard is used to shore up percentages against other creature strategies, break up Moment's Peace and Prismatic Strands with your best card being Smash to Smithereens. Whether you use it as a Stone Rain, Myr Enforcer removal or even killing an Astrolabe or Prophetic Prism to keep decks from having perfect mana, it's simply awesome to back up your aggressive game plan.


This is my 75:

[Pauper decklist]


Vintage: Sultai Leovold


Even though Vintage is supposed to be old men playing old cards, these day it's a shark tank thanks to War of the Spark card Karn, the Great Creator (turns out one-sided Null Rod and built-in toolbox is strong) and the London Mulligan which means that Dredge players will have an even more consistent machine to put a stranglehold on the format. Thankfully, fair decks have some great tools at their disposal to fight back, so strategies like Jeskai and Sultai are still winning tournaments.


At the moment I like Sultai the most for a few reasons. First, Deathrite Shaman is great against decks attacking your mana, Tarmogoyf is good against Shops and dodges Lightning Bolt out of Jeskai, and Assassin's Trophy takes care of everything from Karn to Bazaar of Baghdad to Mishra's Workshop. A huge piece of the puzzle is the priting of Force of Vigor which offers a free two-for-two and is perfectly servicable at four mana as well. Leovold, Emissary of Trest is an auto-include once you're in the Sultai colors and will always have an impact in a format with Preordain, Ponder, Brainstorm, Ancestral Recall, Dack Fayden and Treasure Cruise to name a few.


In the sideboard you need to look for crossover cards to answer multiple decks. I love cards like Pithing Needle because it will shut down Bazaar of Baghdad to count as Dredge hate while also naming Karn, Wasteland, Walking Ballista, Arcbound Ravager and more against different versions of Shops. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is a recent piece of technology against Dredge that you don't need in your opening hand to be relevant. If you keep your life total relatively high or have blockers for Ichorid, Preordaining into a mid-game Tabernacle will work wonders.


I keep switching a card or two each week, but here is my proposed list:




I hope you found it interesting to read about my thoughts on the different formats. Keeping up with four formats can be tough at times, so sometimes I have some brushing off to do when I prepare for a tournament. All of these four formats offer different scenarios and types of gameplay, so I see myself as a kid in a candy store whenever I fire up Magic Online. And I think playing Magic is about putting yourself in situations that you thoroughly enjoy, and sometimes it's important to remember why you started playing in the first place. Thanks a lot for reading.


This article was written by Andreas Petersen in a media collaboration with


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