Unearthing New Modern Decks

by Simon Nielsen on 15 July 2019, Monday

Simon Nielsen


At the time of writing, we live in a world of Bridgevine Summer. Similar to Eldrazi Winter in 2016, a busted Modern deck has emerged and frequently takes up half of the metagame among top-performing decks.


This is not going to be yet another article reiterating on how busted the deck is. If you have a Modern event coming up soon, I’d recommend you to at least familiarize yourself with this beast. The next ban announcement will be July 8th and I’d suspect that this deck gets the hammer. So until then it’s worth looking at the other awesome stuff that goes on in the format.


This weekend we had two big Modern tournaments over on Magic Online. The Modern Format Playoff on Saturday and a Mythic Championship Qualifier on Sunday. They showed some interesting metagame trends like a rise of Arclight Phoenix varieties, both of the Izzet and Mono-Red variety, and Eldrazi Tron as the only big mana deck left standing. Humans was also weirdly absent.


There were however four different decks among these two top 8s that featured the card Unearth. This little number from Urza’s block has been a Pauper staple for an eternity and now we get to see what it does when paired with some of the powerful 3-drops in Modern. The strength of the card comes not only from the mana advantage you gain when reanimating a 3-cost card for one mana but also that this somewhat situational card can just cycle whenever the situation isn’t quite right.


Good ol’ Jund


bladede’s Jund”


2 Bloodbraid Elf

3 Dark Confidant

2 Scavenging Ooze

2 Seasoned Pyromancer

4 Tarmogoyf

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

2 Thoughtseize

1 Unearth

1 Abrupt Decay

2 Assassin's Trophy

2 Fatal Push

1 Kolaghan's Command

4 Lightning Bolt

1 Nihil Spellbomb

3 Liliana of the Veil

1 Liliana, the Last Hope

2 Wrenn and Six

4 Blackcleave Cliffs

1 Blood Crypt

3 Bloodstained Mire

1 Forest

1 Mountain

1 Nurturing Peatland

2 Overgrown Tomb

2 Raging Ravine

1 Stomping Ground

2 Swamp

3 Verdant Catacombs

2 Wooded Foothills


1 Ancient Grudge

1 Anger of the Gods

1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

2 Collector Ouphe

3 Fulminator Mage

4 Leyline of the Void

2 Plague Engineer

1 Weather the Storm




It’s interesting to me how Jund lines up against Bridgevine. You do get to play some Nihil Spellbombs maindeck and sideboard Leyline of the Void and while those don’t stop the deck completely, they might buy you time to let Scavenging Ooze do just that.


However, if you can get through the busted graveyard decks, Jund did get a lot of new upgrades. Seasoned Pyromancer provides some much needed velocity and card selection, while the weirdo planeswalker which I cannot wait to get a background story on, Wrenn and Six, tags along so nicely.

This deck only features a single copy of Unearth which isn’t too odd to me as this deck really can’t maximize the potential of Unearth and has lots of other powerful cards it can play. On the other hand, you could add more Seasoned Pyromancer and Tireless Tracker and have Jund become a great Unearth deck. 


Maybe do call this a comeback…


milikin’s Mardu Pyromancer”


4 Seasoned Pyromancer

2 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

4 Young Pyromancer

3 Collective Brutality

4 Faithless Looting

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Lingering Souls

4 Smiting Helix

3 Thoughtseize

3 Unearth

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Blackcleave Cliffs

2 Blood Crypt

4 Bloodstained Mire

1 Godless Shrine

4 Marsh Flats

1 Mountain

1 Plains

2 Sacred Foundry

2 Swamp


2 Blood Moon

2 Dreadbore

2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation

1 Kaya's Guile

1 Kolaghan's Command

2 Plague Engineer

3 Ravenous Trap

2 Wear // Tear


Playing Mardu in Modern lately has been like playing Magic on hard mode. Sure, the deck was the runner-up at the Pro Tour back in 2018 but we’ve come a long way since then and Modern just isn’t ripe for a deck that slowly accumulates incremental advantage.


Well, that was until the tools to gain said advantage skyrocketed in power level.


Conspiracy theorists claim that Seasoned Pyromancer is just an older version of Young Pyromancer, and they might just be right. So why not play them together?

Seasoned Pyromancer is especially fitting in this deck that was already powered by Faithless Looting, and we even get Smiting Helix as an additional powerful flashback spell to discard!

While I can see how Yawgmoth, Thran Physician can be very powerful in this shell with the amount of token-making, I think it might be best relegated to the sideboard so that we can get some Bedlam Reveler in here and actually establish a meaningful clock.

I have no idea how this deck plans to beat Bridgevine, but at least Plague Engineer in the sideboard is quite neat against them and with Faithless Looting plus Unearth you can actually get it down quickly enough to matter.


Casting a Shadow over the format


jessy_samek’s Esper Shadow”


4 Death's Shadow

1 Hex Parasite

2 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 Ranger-Captain of Eos

3 Snapcaster Mage

2 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Thoughtseize

2 Unearth

1 Dismember

3 Fatal Push

2 Force of Negation

4 Opt

3 Path to Exile

3 Stubborn Denial

2 Teferi, Time Raveler

2 Flooded Strand

2 Godless Shrine

1 Hallowed Fountain

1 Island

3 Marsh Flats

1 Plains

4 Polluted Delta

4 Silent Clearing

1 Swamp

1 Watery Grave


1 Fatal Push

1 Path to Exile

1 Stubborn Denial

1 Ceremonious Rejection

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Engineered Explosives

3 Leyline of the Void

1 Lingering Souls

1 Ravenous Trap

2 Rest in Peace

2 Stony Silence


We’ve grown used to usual Grixis builds of Death’s Shadow over the past couple years. But lately the deck has started to flounder and lose what was left of a decent win rate. Luckily, Modern Horizons came to the rescue and brought not only Unearth to revive fallen shadows but also Ranger-Captain of Eos which can always find you more Death’s Shadow and also act as a prime target for Unearth.


This is also the first time we see the great interaction between Snapcaster Mage and Unearth which with four mana and a Captain in the graveyard lets your Snapcaster have the extra utility of creating a truly remarkable board. Or if you reanimate Snapcaster, it can turn your Unearth into a piece of removal.


The interaction with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is similar in that it’s both great to be able to flashback something proactively but also great to be able to get back your planeswalker in grindy matchups. 


Inspired by Vintage


Nilsfit’s Esper Mentor”


3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 Monastery Mentor

4 Snapcaster Mage

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Serum Visions

2 Thoughtseize

3 Unearth

4 Fatal Push

2 Force of Negation

4 Opt

2 Path to Exile

1 Spell Pierce

2 Surgical Extraction

2 Teferi, Time Raveler

3 Darkslick Shores

4 Flooded Strand

1 Godless Shrine

2 Hallowed Fountain

2 Island

1 Plains

4 Polluted Delta

1 Swamp

1 Watery Grave


1 Path to Exile

1 Spell Pierce

1 Celestial Purge

2 Collective Brutality

1 Engineered Explosives

2 Fulminator Mage

2 Narset, Parter of Veils

1 Stony Silence

4 Yixlid Jailer


Nils Guiterrez von Porat is a Spanish brewer under the MTGO nickname Nilsfit. He has worked on various Modern decks and also has a GP Top 8 to his name, but this time he brought another new idea to Modern: What if we use Unearth to recur Monastery Mentor and get to make tokens right away with our extra mana?


He top 8’ed the Modern Playoff and got to the finals. The very next day, Tommy Ashton top 8’ed the MCQ with Nils’ exact 75. Maybe this deck is very real?

Force of Negation also happens to be a perfect fit, as opponents will rarely want to let you untap with Mentor so they just fire off removal on their own turn. Just like the Esper Shadow deck before it, this deck also gets to play Teferi, Time Raveler, Snapcaster Mage and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.


You might think this is too low a creature count for Unearth, but this is exactly where that cycling ability comes in so handy. I would love to see a playset of Mishra’s Bauble in here though. Does the Magic community really have to relearn that it is just the best cantrip?


In the sideboard we find some very interesting technology to defeat Bridgevine. You’re a black deck, so they will come prepared with Wispmare and Nature’s Claim for your expected Leyline of the Void. Instead you’ll dodge those cards with the often forgotten Yixlid Jailer which shuts down almost all their engines except for casting Hogaak, the Arisen Necropolis from their hand. And if they manage to kill the Jailer? Well, that’s when those Unearths come in handy!

I’m really hoping for a ban soon, because the new Modern format has so many cool things going on that I’d like to explore. It seems like black-based midrange decks jump-started by Unearth are the new hot thing, but I’m eager to find out what the next layer will be.


This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with magemarket.com.


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