How to Become Fluent in Modern

by | Dec 20, 2018 | Articles | 0 comments

While Standard is Magic’s most popular format, the general consensus seems to say that Modern is far and away the game’s most loved format.

After taking the time to finally learn the Modern meta this fall, it’s easy to understand why. The gameplay is always exciting, the meta is always gradually changing from week to week, and you have dozens of incredible deck options to choose from.

And of course, cards don’t rotate out, which is huge for getting the most out of your investment in the game.

Unfortunately though, Modern is a difficult format to enter, especially if you’re relatively new to Magic. A Tier 1 or 2 deck typically costs hundreds, and Modern is an incredibly skill-intensive format.

While you have dozens of incredible deck options to choose from, you also have dozens of potential decks you’ll face – and you need to understand how these decks are trying to win, and more specifically, how they’re trying to beat you.

That’s all in addition to understanding how your deck works.

Aside from the financial obstacles of obtaining a Modern deck, the biggest hurdle to entering Modern is gaining a certain degree of fluency in the format so that you can compete.

  • Fluency is being able to smell a fresh Cryptic Command in your opponent’s hand when they have four or more mana available.
  • You may not know all four modes of Kolaghan’s Command, but you should know that the Jund player might have it when they have a black, red and one other type of mana up.
  • Maybe you’ve only played against GR Land Destruction once or twice, but if you’re fluent in Modern, you’ll know that a turn 1 Utopia Sprawl probably means that one of your lands is getting blown up in the next couple turns.

These are just a few of the many examples of the types of things you’ll need to know in order to gradually become more fluent in the format.

So how do you develop this type of fluency in Modern? I’ll walk you through the steps I took in order to go from fumbling through my fetches to making Day 2 of a SCG Open.


#1: Pick a deck and play it often. This is obvious, but it needs to be stated.

Pick a deck that suits your playstyle and play it over and over again. When prepping for SCG Charlotte, I exclusively played Modern for about 10 weeks – both in person and online. I played it to the point that some weeks the only Magic I played was with my Humans deck.

When you stick with a deck for an extended period of time, you master the different sequences and you become better positioned to see ALL of the lines of play. Sideboarding becomes a breeze, and you understand what cards you have in your deck at a given moment that can win you the game.

Picking a deck and playing ONLY that deck in Modern is the absolute first and most important step towards gaining and maintaining fluency in the format as a whole.


#2: Read every card as much as you have to.

In Modern, your opponents are going to assume that you know what a given card does. These are typically much more experienced players that are used to playing with equally experienced players. Some scenarios to watch out for:

Maybe your opponent is playing fast and you want to keep up with their pace. Slow it down and read the card.

Are you unsure about an interaction your opponent is making? Tell them “it’s on the stack” and pick up the cardboard.

Don’t want your opponent to see that you’re new(ish) to the format? Lose the ego and read the card.

Is your opponent telling you what the card does? Stop them and READ THE CARD. Which gets me to an important note.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t comprehend what I read while people are talking to me. If someone is trying to explain a card to me while I read it, I always stop them and politely say, “I appreciate it, but it’s easier for me if I just read it.” I highly encourage you to do the same.


#3: You need to consult your opponents.

If you really want to get fluent in Modern, you need to make it a point to ask your opponents how they sideboarded against you, regardless of whether you won or lost, and regardless of whether or not they seem like a good player.

This is a tip I frequently mention, but man, oh man did this tip do wonders for me.

If you have to, take a picture of the cards your opponent lays out when they show you how they sideboarded, and write it down in your notebook later.

Rarely will two players sideboard the same exact way against you, but over time you’ll understand what the common denominators are in an archetype’s sideboard strategy. This understanding will tremendously help your sideboarding strategy in the future.


#4: Study a deck a week – at a minimum.

Between the usual suspects for written content and videos and Twitch for streams, there is no shortage of information out there for learning about any opposing deck you want to.

Listen – Modern is a deep format, so take the time to learn at least a deck a week. If you do this, then at a minimum you’ll have a deep understanding of at least 80% of the format in a year.

If you can learn multiple decks in a week, then even better.

I started by learning the following decks (in no particular order): Mono Green Tron, Jeskai Control, UW Control, GW Company, Abzan Combo, Storm, Humans, Grixis Death’s Shadow, KCI, Hollow One, Jund, Affinity, Mardu Pyromancer and Bant Spirits.

Get to know those decks, their mana bases, their key cards, etc. – and at the very least you’ll be able to compete against a large portion of the format within a short period of time.


#5: You have to keep and review notes

There are far too many decks and interactions in Modern to remember, and you don’t want to lose because you repeated a previous mistake. There aren’t words to describe the monumental level of frustration I felt the second time I lost a game to Amulet Titan because I forgot about Hornet Queen.

Write down everything that you think is worth remembering and review it often.


#6: Understand that it takes time

Standard is a format that you can pretty much nail down in a month, but it definitely takes an extended period of time to become fluent in Modern.

As you learn the format, you’re going to have some great wins. By the same token, you’re going to have some losses in which you simply didn’t get to play Magic. Be prepared to have those types of games, but don’t let them sour you on the format.


Stick with your deck, continue studying the format, and don’t stop playing events! Your efforts will pay off, and before you know it you’ll know exactly how KCI combos off and all three modes in Collective Brutality – and a whole lot more. It all adds up to your fluency in the format.

And the great news is that once you’re fluent in Modern, you always will be.

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff Sheerin, MTG Pro Tutor Scribe