What Is The Modern Format In Magic: The Gathering?

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  • Key Decks (Metagame) In Modern

While it has certainly become a little dated, Modern long stood as the most played and celebrated Magic: The Gathering constructed format in the game’s history. Originally introduced on Magic Online back in May of 2011 as a format named Extended, it rose to the limelight of constructed play after being renamed Modern at Pro Tour Philadelphia in August of 2011.




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The idea was to provide a constructed format for all cards printed using a modern card frame. This is where the format’s namesake comes from. In recent years, the format has changed wildly as sets made specifically for the format, known as Modern Horizons, have been released.

Modern Basics

Leyline Binding by Cristi Balanescu
Leyline Binding by Cristi Balanescu

The Modern format shares the basics of most other constructed formats. Games consist of a single player contending against another using decks with a minimum size of sixty cards, and you will play in a best-of-three series of matches where each player may access a sideboard of up to fifteen cards.

Furthermore, a player’s deck and sideboard cannot feature more than four copies of any single card.

The Lightning Bolt instant in Magic: The Gathering
Lightning Bolt by Christopher Moeller

Perhaps the greatest feature of Modern is the ridiculously large card pool that it contains. The format includes all cards from Eighth Edition and beyond as long as they were printed in a core or expansion set.

In other words, all cards printed since July of 2003 are legal aside from cards printed solely for Commander or promotional reasons.

That being said, Modern does feature a ban list that prevents a select few of these cards from seeing play, with the list regularly updated to ensure the health of the format. Below is a table of all the cards banned in Modern as of December 4th, 2023.

Cards Banned In Modern

Ancient Den

Deathrite Shaman

Great Furnace

Mystic Sanctuary

Sensei’s Divining Top

Up The Beanstalk

Arcum’s Astrolabe

Dread Return

Green Sun’s Zenith

Oko, Thief Of Crowns

Simian Spirit Guide

Uro, Titan Of Nature’s Wrath

Birthing Pod

Eye of Ugin

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Once Upon A Time


Vault Of Whispers

Blazing Shoal

Faithless Looting



Splinter Twin

Yorion, Sky Nomad

Bridge From Below

Field of the Dead

Krark-Clan Ironworks

Punishing Fire

Summer Bloom

Chrome Mox


Lurrus Of The Dream-Den

Rite Of Flame

Tibalt’s Trickery


Gitaxian Prove

Mental Misstep

Seat Of The Synod

Treasure Cruise

Dark Depths

Glimpse Of Nature

Mox Opal

Second Sunrise

Tree Of Tales

Dig Through Time

Golgari Grave-Troll

Mycosynth Lattice

Seething Song

Umezawa’s Jitte

How Is Modern Different?

primeval titan mtg
Primeval Titan by Aleksi Briclot

The thing that makes Modern different from every other format is the sheer number of cards you’re allowed to play. Modern has a larger selection of cards available for players to pick from than any other format aside from Legacy and Vintage.


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However, both Legacy and Vintage restrict most players from playing due to the absurdly high cost of some of the cards printed in the first seven editions of the game. For example, many of the decks at the top of the Legacy metagame cost somewhere around $5,000, so in comparison, most top Modern decks cost somewhere around $1,000.

There are cheaper Modern decks that perform nearly as well as the top decks and are closer to a cost of $500. Boros Burn and Mono-Green Tron are some of the most obvious examples.

The extreme size of the card pool makes for a metagame where all strategies have a seat at the table. Whether you want to play aggro, control, midrange, combo, or some other strange hard-to-define brew, Modern has the card pool to make it possible.

Some strategies fall out of the metagame’s favor at times, but they are still very much playable.

Modern is a pretty fast format, however, so Pioneer and Explorer players ought to already be familiar with this pace of play. The format is home to a fair amount of turn-three win conditions though, so be ready for that when your opponent draws their deck’s god hand.

Lastly, even though Modern features a fair amount of interaction, many decks focus on enacting their game plan over interacting with the opponents. This can be a little off-putting to players who like to trade resources with their opponents before finally claiming victory.

Consequently, you will want to be careful about the deck you choose to invest in before paying that high price tag.

Crashing Footfalls

This deck’s namesake card is Crashing Footfalls which creates two 4/4 Rhino tokens. While you would typically need to suspend the card for a single green mana and wait four turns before seeing your Rhinos enter the battlefield, Footfalls avoids this time delay by cascading into the card using Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst.

This also means that the deck features no cards with a converted mana cost less than three. While that might seem problematic in a format as fast as Modern, Footfalls is actually one of the best decks in the metagame.

Murktide Regent

Murktide Regent gallery

While not a true control deck, Murktide is about as close as you’ll get to playing a control strategy in Modern. The deck’s win condition is a huge Dragon that you can delve out for as little as two blue mana.

Alongside the Dragon are a slew of instant and sorcery spells that provide removal, card draw, and counterspells: making Murktide one of the most versatile decks in the format.


Yawgmoth gallery

This is a combo deck that seeks to win by assembling a handful of creatures with activated abilities onto the battlefield. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is the most important of those creatures, and the deck consistently draws him through the use of the creature tutor Chord of Calling.

All that being said, this deck can also win through normal combat damage in a pinch which is what makes it so difficult to deal with.

Rakdos Scam

Rakdos Scam gallery

This was almost undoubtedly the best deck in the format up until the banning of Fury on December 3rd, 2023. Now, its standing is a little less clear.

Scam is a good old-fashioned Rakdos Midrange deck that looks to abuse powerful creature effects by keeping the creatures in play through the use of cards like Not Dead After All and Undying Evil.

It should be noted that it’s named Scam because, before Fury was banned, playing against this deck felt like you had just been scammed.

Living End

Living End gallery

Like Crashing Footfalls, Living End is named after a suspend card that you cheat into play early using Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst. Unlike Crashing Footfalls, the result is a combo kill that wins you the game on your next turn, making Living End more powerful than its Crashing Footfalls brethren at the cost of being more susceptible to interaction such as counterspells.

Boros Burn

Boros Burn gallery

Arguably the deck with the longest standing time at the top of the Modern metagame, Boros Burn is your typical burn strategy that makes use of aggressive, low-cost creatures and a critical mass of direct damage spells to empty the opponent’s life total as early as turn three.

This is the perfect deck for beginner Modern players; however, it can also be surprisingly deadly in a veteran’s hands.

Hammer Time

Hammer Time gallery

Have you ever wanted to play an equipment-based deck? Well, Hammer Time is finally giving every Magic player that chance thanks to the synergy between Colossus Hammer, Sigarda’s Aid, and either Stoneforge Mystic or Puresteel Paladin.

Make a little creature impossibly large and smash in for half of the opponent’s life total. Sounds fun, right?

Indomitable Creativity

Indomitable Creativity gallery

This five-color deck seeks to cheat Archon of Cruelty into play by using Indomitable Creativity targeting tokens created by Fable of the Mirror-Breaker as well as the land card Dwarven Mine. Playing all five colors gives you access to some of the best cards in the Modern format.

Creativity plays like a Reanimator strategy of old, so if you miss graveyard shenanigans, this may be your best bet.


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