Author: Nick Rennard
Nick Rennard was the State Champion of Oregon in 2010. He has four PTQ top eights, including a second place finish against Grand Prix Seattle winner David Stroud. He is an avid magic player who has been studying the Modern metagame since it was first released. He does most of his testing through Magic Online by the username nrjets99. You can e-mail him with any questions or comments about the following article at email@example.com.
Current Deck List:
4x Lightning Bolt
2x Path to Exile
4x Lightning Helix
4x Mana Leak
2x Spreading Seas
1x Wall of Omens
1x Izzet Charm
4x Snapcaster Mage
2x Supreme Verdict
4x Cryptic Command
1x Gideon Jura
1x Sphinx’s Revelation
4x Arid Mesa
4x Scalding Tarn
1x Sacred Foundry
2x Hallowed Fountain
2x Steam Vents
1x Eiganjo Castle
4x Celestial Colonnade
2x Sulfur Falls
2x Glacial Fortress
1x Rest in Peace
1x Celestial Purge
1x Wear // Tear
1x Path to Exile
1x Sowing Salt
2x Geist of Saint Traft
1x Supreme Verdict
2x Stony Silence
The win condition of this deck is to burn your opponent and beat them down. This deck combines aspects of aggro and control to attack opposing decks from multiple angles. The versatility of this deck is what makes it so fun to play. Cards like Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Electrolyze all act as great removal spells for early threats and also as win conditions that can go straight to the face. Most decks in Modern spend a lot of their life on their mana base (fetch lands and shock lands) and also spells like Gitaxian Probe, Dismember, Thoughtseize, etc. This deck can easily punish players with greedy mana bases, especially with the help of Spreading Seas.
Notes about a few specific card choices:
Sphinx’s Revelation is extremely misleading in Modern. It is very powerful in Standard, but Standard is a much slower format than Modern. I was originally running 3 copies of this card until I realized how slow it is. First of all, there are some match-ups where this card is almost useless. Modern is a relatively fast format, and match-ups like Infect, Eggs, and RG aggro are too fast for this to ever resolve before your opponent kills you. Also, if you ever open a hand with more than one copy of this card, then it’s almost guaranteed to be a mulligan (especially on the draw). Running two copies in your deck is acceptable, but just understand that there are going to be times where you won’t be able to keep up with your opponent since you are running too many copies of clunky cards like Sphinx’s Revelation. This card is great against match-ups like Jund once the game starts to slow down and you start accumulating a critical mass of lands. This card is powerful in the late game, and I love casting it once and then Snapcasting it again later on, but I’ve found that one copy of this card is enough. All that being said I definitely like having this card in this deck, and it plays a good roll in how the deck operates.
Izzet charm is one of the most versatile cards in magic. It acts as removal for creatures, removal for non-creatures, and also as a Faithless Looting effect for combos, filtering, and digging. Unfortunately, I’m not running any combos in this deck, so the last ability of Izzet Charm is generally used to filter out Mana Leaks once they start to become useless towards the late game. It can also help you dig for cards like Sphinx’s Revelation, Path to Exile, or Supreme Verdict when you’re desperate to find an answer to one of your opponent’s threats. The only way they could have made this card better is if the 2 damage could go to the face as a potential win condition. There are diminishing returns in running multiple copies of Izzet Charm if you don’t have any broken combos in your deck, so for now I’m happy running the one copy as a versatile piece of removal and also a way to filter out cards I don’t need towards the late game.
Batterskull is one of my favorite weapons against aggro and midrange decks. This card can get out of control once the game starts to slow down. Being able to play and replay this card over and over against decks that are trying to beat you down makes it one of the most resilient and life-saving threats in match-ups where your life total really matters. I’m a huge fan of Batterskull in Modern, and if you’re planning on playing this deck or any other mid-range or control deck, then I recommend at least using this card in your sideboard to help you in those match-ups.
Gideon is very similar to Batterskull in their role in this deck. I used to play Gideon a long time ago in this deck, but I ended up cutting him since I wasn’t having as many issues with aggro as I am now, and I liked Batterskull better against midrange decks. Gideon Jura is at his best against aggro, but also does well against midrange. He’s also another alternate win condition. I recently started having trouble with RG aggro with the printing of Experiment One, so I decided to bring this guy back in to help me in those styles of match-ups.
Spreading Seas is one of the latest techs that I have been working with. I was originally running four copies, and while I was happy with four copies, I ended up cutting a couple of them for more pieces of removal. As I mentioned earlier, many decks in Modern have extremely greedy mana bases, and most of them also run manlands. Jund runs Raging Ravine, this deck runs Celestial Colonnade, Infect and Affinity runs Inkmoth/Blinkmoth Nexus, and having these mainboard against Tron is great. The original reason that I started running this card is because I was tired of running reactive cards like Spell Snare. I wanted to play a card that I could run out early on that would help me hit my land drops, but also do a good job of interacting with my opponent. There are quite a few options (Azorius Charm, Wall of Omens, Izzet Charm, etc), but Spreading Seas has lived up to all of my expectations so far. I may eventually move my count back up to 3 or 4 in the maindeck, but I’m still tweaking the deck and two is currently the number that I’ve been happy with. I’m also testing out my 1-of Wall of Omens in place of a Spreading Seas because I have been having some trouble with my RG aggro match-up. That deck seems to resolve threats faster than we can remove them, and Molten Rain forces us to develop a board presence earlier than we are normally able to.
Rest in Peace – This card is primarily for your Eggs match-up, but it also acts as a nice piece of hate against any kind of deck that gets to greedy trying to use their graveyard (Gifts Reanimator, Mindslaver locks, Vengegine/Bloodghast dredge decks, etc). Be a little bit careful siding this card in too hastily because it also shuts off your own Snapcaster Mages.
Celestial Purge – This is primarily in the deck to deal with Liliana of the Veil, but the fact that it kills Dark Confidant, Deathrite Shaman, and Blood Moon is a nice added bonus.
Wear // Tear – This is my favorite card coming out of Dragon’s Maze thus far. It’s the red/white version of Nature’s Claim, but it has the capability of being a two-for-one against decks like Affinity (Tempered Steel) and Infect (Wild Defiance). This card slot was originally a Disenchant, but Wear//Tear is strictly better since this deck’s mana base can easily hit both colors.
Spellskite – There is no deck in Modern that I wouldn’t be running at least one copy of this card in my 75. It’s amazing against Infect, Slippery Boggle, and Splinter Twin, and it’s also a great wall against most aggro match-ups.
Negate – I side this card in against any control mirror, and it’s also great against any of your combo match-ups (eggs, splinter twin, storm, etc).
Dispel – This is my third Negate. It generally hits the same spells as Negate, but it has the added bonus of costing one mana (easier to Snapcast) and being immune to Spell Snare.
Path to Exile – It’s pretty obvious that I bring this in against aggro and Splinter Twin, but I also bring my third one in against Tron to deal with Wurmcoils.
Sowing Salt – Tron
Geist of Saint Traft – The mainboard of this deck runs a lot of cards that act as both reactive and proactive cards. What I mean by that is they can either be used as win conditions to burn your opponent out or you can use them as removal for your opponent’s threats. There are a few cards in the deck that don’t do anything to help you win the game (like Supreme Verdict). There are also a few match-ups where it’s much more effective to be playing proactive threats that are actively winning you the game (primarily against Tron and control mirrors). In match-ups where this is the case, I will side out my reactive cards in the sideboard for proactive threats like Geist of Saint Traft.
Supreme Verdict – This is just my third copy. Supreme Verdict isn’t very good in some match-ups (Eggs), so I have to side it out, but there are other match-ups where it’s amazing and I want more of them. This is why you see the 2-1 split between my mainboard and my sideboard.
Stony Silence – Birthing Pod, Eggs, Tron, and can also be brought in against anyone who’s running a large number of cards like Sword of War and Peace or Batterskull. Remember that this also shuts off your own Batterskull.
Batterskull – see above
I want to make a note about sideboarding in this article for any of those that have been struggling to succeed with Modern. Modern is a healthy format. What I mean by that is there isn’t a single deck that strictly dominates the format (this hasn’t always been true in Modern). You can play combo, control, aggro, and even midrange. All styles of decks are perfectly viable in the current Modern metagame. This seems to frustrate a lot of people because they feel that it doesn’t matter what deck they choose; they just need to choose a deck and hope they get the right match-ups at whatever tournament they show up to. There’s some truth to that theory, but success in Modern is much more revolved around being able to properly sideboard against all your match-ups than it is in choosing the ‘best deck.’ The truth is, there isn’t a ‘best deck’ in Modern. All of the decks are very powerful. If you’re struggling with the format, then I recommend picking up the deck that you enjoy playing the most and spending a lot of time with your sideboard. Know what your bad match-ups are, know what your good match-ups are, and know what cards you are going to be siding in and also what cards you are going to be siding out depending on those match-ups.
Cards that this deck is weak against:
Thrun is hard for UWR deck to interact with. The best answer to Thrun is Supreme Verdict (assuming they don’t have the regen mana up). If your opponent plays a Thrun and you don’t have an answer to it, then that generally means that you just need to race them. Cryptic Command can help slow Thrun down, but there aren’t a ton of cards to interact with him very well. I don’t recommend using up a sideboard slow for something like Phantasmal Image (unless you’re playing a version with Sun Titan), and I also don’t recommend running Wrath of God over Supreme Verdict. The uncounterable clause of Supreme Verdict is extremely relevant, especially against opposing Geists of Saint Traft.
Blood Moon can also be a huge issue for this deck. Just be aware that if your opponent is running red, then they might bring in Blood Moons post-board. This doesn’t mean that you need to side in your Blood Moon hate (Celestial Purge, Wear//Tear, Negate) against any deck running mountains, but if they are running red, then you should consider digging up basic lands over non-basic lands with your fetches. If you do see that they are running Blood Moon in game 2 (or even game 1 in some cases), then I definitely recommend bringing in Celestial Purge and Wear//Tear. It’s hard for this deck to operate properly with a Blood Moon in play. Remember that if Blood Moon is in play, then you can cast Spreading Seas on your own non-basic lands to turn them into islands to cast blue-intensive spells like Cryptic Command and Sphinx’s Revelation.
Molten Rain is absolutely the best card against our deck. This deck really wants to get to 4 mana, and if your opponent starts blowing up your lands before you can get there, then it’s difficult for this deck to keep up. If you’re struggling to beat this deck in your metagame and you are playing a high density of red sources, then I absolutely recommend adding more Molten Rains in your sideboard.
Geist of Saint Traft is good against our deck for the same reason that Thrun is good against our deck. Fortunately we are able to play our own Geists as an answer to their Geists, but this card is great in mirror matches. It’s hard to interact with, it works well with Cryptic Command, and it will kill your opponent quickly. I also like that you can path your own Angel token at end of combat to dig up a land if you need it.
Potential additions to this deck:
This is my second favorite card out of Dragon’s Maze thus far (next to Wear//Tear). This seems like a card that a deck like RUG would be more interested in since they don’t have access to Path to Exile. Turn//Burn may not have an impact on Modern, and I’m not even sure if UWR wants this effect, but I like that it acts as a versatile piece of removal and also a win condition. It’s also a potential two-for-one. These are all qualities of a card that this deck would be looking for, so this is a card that I will be testing and keeping an eye on moving forward in Modern.
I used to play 3 Tectonic Edges in my deck. I don’t fault anyone for playing this card, but since I added Lightning Helix I started to realize that this version of the deck is a little more mana-intensive than my previous versions. This forces me to be less greedy with my mana base, so unfortunately I had to cut these. I’m still considering playing just 1 in the deck, but there have been quite a few times where I couldn’t cast spells because of this card. Adding Spreading Seas to the deck made me feel less guilty about cutting my Tectonic Edges. This is a powerful card to consider if you are building your own version of UWR.
This is a potentially powerful card that will catch a few of your opponents off-guard. It’s at its best against fetch lands, but it’s also great against some combo decks like Eggs, Tron, Birthing Pod, etc. I ended up cutting this card from my deck because it was slowing me down too much in my aggro match-ups. This card ranges from being a slow cycler to being a Sinkhole that also draws you a card. Good players will also do a good job of playing around this card (like fetching in response to their opponent’s fetches or fetching for your lands only when they don’t have 2 U/B mana up).
Spell Snare is, hands down, the best answer to Snapcaster Mage. The only reason I’m not playing any of these is because of the reason I mentioned before about this version of UWR. I wanted to play a more proactive plan for GP Portland, so I stopped playing as many reactive spells like Spell Snare and other counterspells (my old version ran more Izzet Charms, Supreme Verdicts, Path to Exile, etc).
Talk about spicy! This card used to be one of my favorite win conditions. If you play a slower version of UWR with more removal/counterspells and less threats, then I definitely recommend using this bad boy as your 27th land. This card won me a lot of games, but my current version of UWR operates much too quickly for this card to keep up anymore.
That’s all I have for my current breakdown of UWR. If you have any questions or comments for me about the deck or article, then feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also add me on Magic Online at nrjets99. Thank you for reading!