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January 18, 2017

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Three Modern Decks That Welcome Fatal Push (but won’t play it)

Over the next few weeks Modern players will get a firsthand look at how Fatal Push will affect the format. I think the obvious impact is that linear aggressive decks are going to be worse, but this does not necessarily mean we enter an era where midrange or control decks are king. A format with less blisteringly fast aggro and more creature removal is a format ripe for the picking by decks that can dodge the removal and present unconventional win conditions. With that in mind, I think these three decks likely to see noticeable improvement with the release of Aether Revolt:

Valakut Decks

Whether it’s “Titanshift” or “Breachscape” (are they the same?) Valakut decks strike me as the biggest winner overall from the printing of Fatal Push. A deck that is basically 50+ lands and cards that put lands into play dodges a lot of conventional answers – including Fatal Push. Valakut is a card that is very hard to interact with, and racing it was the best way to beat it. A decline in fast aggro decks is good for Valakut, and unless the Push decks find themselves packing Blood Moon or Leyline of Sanctity, they are going to be in tough against any deck looking to win with land-based Lightning Bolt triggers.

Lantern Control

A creatureless soft-lock prison deck, when Lantern works it effectively limits your draws for the game to the top three or four cards of your deck. That means your opening hand has to have the bulk of what you need to interact and win the game. Since each copy of Fatal Push is a liability in this matchup, any matchup with that card will be slightly more favourable for Lantern. More importantly, the aggressive decks that could generate an oppressive board state with just a few draws and a few turns should be less popular. Regardless of whether Lantern makes use of new tools like Spire of Industry and Whir of Invention, it’s likely to be a stronger choice in February than it was in January.

Taking Turns

I am always a little surprised that a (usually) monoblue deck that chains “take an extra turn” spells turn after turn while making land drops and drawing additional cards doesn’t put up better results. When I have played against it, it seems like as long as they stick a Dictate and survive turn four they probably win. Abrupt Decay and counterspells are the only reasonably main deck choices that stops a flashed in Dictate. Counterspells are not exactly saturating the format and Decay decks will be carrying some additional dead weight in Fatal Push. A broad decline in linear aggressive decks should reduce the likelihood an opponent can punch through for lethal in those first four critical turns, making it more likely Taking Turns can start churning out the soft lock on turn five.

What about…

Many other decks have the potential to see a shift in the new Modern metagame however decks like Tron, UW control, and Ad Nauseam already had reasonable games against non-Infect aggro. I don’t think Fatal Push in particular is going to improve or hurt their metagame position that much.

Overall my hope for the new metagame is similar to my prediction for a Stoneforge Mystic metagame – that the decline in linear aggro creates more space for midrange, control, and slower combo without allowing any specific archetype to dominate. My fear for Modern’s short term future is that land-based decks like Valakut and Tron surge ahead of the pack and smother any potential rise in in midrange or Ux control decks. At the first sight of this happening I would turn to red/green land destruction (“Ponza” decks) or Blood Moon decks in general, but in any case that’s not likely how Wizards or most players want to see the Modern metagame shape up.

Until next time, good luck picking up your Fatal Push playset – but don’t be surprised if solving your linear aggro woes just means you now have a greater need for answers to problems like Valakut, Dictate, and Lantern!