Modern is absolutely rife in archetypes and decks. At every given moment, there are a couple dozens of decks which could win the next tournament and players wouldn’t be taken aback. There is a relatively stable collection of tier 1 decks and a wide swathe of tier 2 and tier 3 decks. However, while they might be called playable, I reckon there are a couple of decks which need just a bit of a push to become truly competitive. Today, I want to discuss what those decks are and what this potential push might be. If you can think of more, let us know on Twitter @Spikes_Academy!


The first on the list is Goblins. In a lot of formats, people try to play this beloved tribe as a Mono Red aggro deck and smash face. However, both Historic and Modern have shown us that it’s possible to go a more combo route. Upon its printing, Conspicuous Snoop was to revolutionise the archetype and there was even a group of people who clamoured for bans. Why? It enabled a turn 3 Splinter-Twin-esque combo.

  • Turn 2 – Snoop
  • Turn 3 – Boggart Harbinger finds Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to put on top
  • Now, Snoop has Kiki’s ability. We can now use it to copy the Snoop itself, creating another hasty creature. Let’s do this 14,832 times [or whatever arbitrarily large number of times]
  • Then, we copy the …. And put Sling-Gang Lieutenant on top.
  • Using Lieutenant’s ability which Snoop has, we sacrifice all 14832 creatures to deal 14832 damage
  • Win

It seemed that finally Goblins got what they needed – a fast combo kill on top of a good grind-out plan. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Despite the ban shouts, the deck now is in the tier 3 territory. First, the combo folds to any removal spell which is a tough position to be in – everybody plays a ton of removal. While Snoop is a fine card on its own, the other half is completely useless most of the time. You can also have some awkward draws when you draw either Kiki or Lieutenant and you cannot combo off. In order to avoid it, you’d have to play more copies of each which makes the deck less smooth – does not really solve the problem. As in most cases, it’s possible that a solid one-drop would solve a lot of issues, because the deck is too slow as is. I keep fingers crossed for this fan-favourite archetype.

Urza Artifact decks

This archetype has to be the closest to playability among the decks from this list. It used to be a true force to reckon with for a long time – in both combo and control shells.

Decks utilizing Urza, Lord High Artificer could go a million directions.

And I could probably go on with this list. The card is super versatile and can support various shells. 

It lost a ton of power when both Arcum’s Astrolabe and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath got banned. Astrolabe was a key enabler, as it was a 1-mana artifact which cycled and enabled turn 2 Emry. Uro was just messed up – whatever the deck it’s played in. 

I personally think that a cycling 1 mana artifact would be enough to reinvigorate. It does not need much top end but enablers to justify running Urza. Of course, another kick would be unbanning the artifact lands but that an Urza Christmans land.

White Taxes

Arguably the most popular white archetype in Magic’s history. It’s super successful in Legacy but what about Modern?

While the Modern’s and the Legacy’s version overlap in some spots, it’s the not-overlapped cards that matter

Path to Exile vs Swords to Plowshares

Ghost Quarter vs Wasteland

Field of Ruin vs Rishadan Port

Giver of Runes vs Mother of Runes

Sword of Feast and Famine vs Umezawa’s Jitte

The Legacy’s version has much stronger equivalents of those of the Modern version. It itself does not mean anything but in practice it shows the differences in playabilities. The Modern taxes build cannot effectively compete with the field. The biggest problem the deck has is the fact that cards are not individually powerful. It’s been mocked for years for playing Leonin Arbiter. And while it can play a strong mana-denial plan in Legacy, it cannot really accomplish it in Modern. It basically has to rely on being a Stoneforge Mystic deck, playing some other better or worse white creatures. In addition, there is a noticeable delta of power between the draws with and without Aether Vial.

As far as I’m concerned, the deck’s power will slowly increase in time as Wizards print more Legacy cards into Modern with the sets such as Modern Horizons. If they go more the White Weenie route, the deck might evolve into a white aggro deck rather than a taxing deck.


Elves! A tribal deck that people deeply love – both competitive and casual players. It’s very unique in that it’s a storm-like creature deck which chains spells together to finish you off at the end of that chain. Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel allow you to keep producing mana and in order to have spells to cast you play Elvish Visionary, Collected Company, and Realmwalker. The deck has actually got plenty of nice toys in the latest sets so…why is it not played?

In my opinion, there is one card that’s really holding the deck down. Elves naturally hate sweepers so they have good game 1 and then have to struggle a bit post-board against deck which side in mass removal. But how could this deck possibly compete when so many decks play maindeck mass removal?

One word – Fury. While cards like Supreme Verdict were already a pain, Fury was just too much. Way too many decks play a full playset in their game 1 configuration and against Elves it could literally kill 4 creatures. Fury cast turn 1 or turn 2 wreck their gameplan for good.

It’s a part of a broader discussion on who Fury has stifled tribal decks in the whole format, but that’s a topic for a separate article.

I do believe Elves will come back when Fury is on the decline as it already has the tools. Yes, cards like Wirewood Symbiote would increase the deck’s power but I think it’s not what’s holding it back. Maybe an elf equivalent to Selfless Spirit?

And this is my Top 4. Thanks for reading and remember to check out our courses and Deck and Sideboard Reviews!

And as always – please remember to hold my hand and let’s pass the turn together. Cheers!