Staples of Modern 2018: Maindeck #5-1

To close out the list from yesterday’s article we will be looking at the big five in 2018’s Modern format. These are the five cards that dominated the format over the past year. This ranking is based on’s dataset of over 6,000 results from paper and online tournaments in 2018. We will continue to approach the 2018 Modern format as a single 100 player tournament.

The following cards have been ranked by dominance rating. This is calculated by multiplying the percent of decks they appear in by the average number of copies that appear in said decks. For frame of reference, a card that appears in 25% of decks as a two of will have a 0.5 dominance rating. For our hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room.

#5 Snapcaster Mage: 0.57
Snapper earns this spot with its unrivaled utility. Being able to double up on the best instant or sorcery played so far in the game is serious value. The fact that is attached to an efficient, aggressive body is just gravy. It can ambush smaller creatures in the early game and often acts as a win condition when games go late. Opponents may bring in graveyard hate to disrupt it but that only takes away half of the value so they have to hope you abuse your graveyard in other ways as well. It is rare to see a control deck that totally eschews Snapper.

#4 Serum Visions: 0.59
The best traditional way to set up your draws in the format, condolences to Ponder and Preordain, Serum Visions is hard to pass up for any blue deck. Serum allows them to run fewer lands and keep looser hands. Whether you are playing control or combo it is very advantageous to determine your draws for the following two turns for a single mana. It is not a flashy card by any means but is the best way to add consistency to your deck without deckbuilding restrictions or card disadvantage.

#3 Noble Hierarch: 0.70
Noble is Modern’s premier mana dork and a key component of many of the format’s best creature decks. Mana dorks’ ability to jump you ahead on mana makes them well worth your first turn. However, they often suffer from being terrible topdecks and being useless by themselves. Noble is able to subvert this by pumping any creature that attacks alone; even itself. This ability makes it a popular choice even in decks that do not utilize all of the colors it is able to produce. It is the most dominant creature in the format.

#2 Path to Exile: 0.77
The best mainboard reason to play white in Modern is undoubtably Path to Exile. It is able to instantly answer nearly any creature at instant speed for a single mana. Even recursive threats stay down in the face of Path. The drawback is very real though as it is risky to accelerate your opponent in the early game. However, decks are built to have the exact number of lands they need so it is very possible that the additional land does not benefit the opponent. This is the best strict removal spell in the format.

#1 Lightning Bolt: 1.27
The perennial top card of the format, Lightning Bolt takes our top spot. I have been tracking stats for the format for nearly five years and Bolt has never lost this spot; yes, even when people referred to Modern as a “Fatal Push format”. Many players choose their creatures with Bolt in mind so it is not always the best removal spell but even against creatureless decks it still is the best burn spell in the format. The card is ubiquitous to the point that in our hypothetical, 100-player tournament there would be more Bolts than players. It is unquestionably the best card in the format.

These are the absolute best spells in the format and you need to be familiar with them. You will play against them constantly and must be prepared to counter them whenever you can. It is difficult to succeed in Modern if you do not run any of these cards or those that were listed yesterday. To close out the week tomorrow we will be looking at new cards in 2018 that were expected to break into this upper echelon but fell flat. Do you have any predictions? Let me know in the comments.

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