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Deck Spotlight - R/W Prison


Modern is a format that has been around since the beginning of 2011, a somewhat short time when you think about it, but a time that saw many huge changes to the format. There were tons of bans, tier 1 decks came and went and the power structure got shuffled more than a couple of times over the course of these six years, but some things never change. There are some decks that survived all the bans and unbans, all new prints and shifts of the format, but rarely stayed in the same tier - the only deck that I can say that didn't lose its tier 1 status over the course of the years might be Affinity. Not even Jund managed to keep its spot, interchanging with Junk, or completely disappearing from the meta for short periods. Affinity is certainly a good example of an indestructible deck that persisted through each and every format, but today, we will be talking about one similar example, but far more removed from the spotlight.

The deck I am going to discuss today is R/W Prison - a deck that has seen many iterations and versions, even since the old Extended format, where it sported Ghostly Prisons and Decree of Annihilation/Obliterate. Since Modern came out those six years ago, R/W Prison was a deck that was always looming in the shadows of tier two, preying upon the unsuspecting. This is the type of deck  that is very frustrating to play against if you get caught unprepared, while on the other hand it can sometimes feel like it doesn't do much, depending on the matchup. Such 'hate' decks like R/W Prison are bound to have a couple of pretty bad matchups in such a wide format as is Modern, but it seems those are few and far in between now that Storm isn't nearly as popular as before.

R/W Prison

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This list was played to a 5-0 finish in a Modern League on Magic Online by a player named OompaLoompa. There are several other similar lists that also recently had 5-0 finishes in different Modern leagues, but this one seemed the most solid to me. Most of the other lists are very similar, just with some different numbers or even worse mana bases.

The main idea that this type of deck has is to disrupt the opponent's game plan before progressing its own. Cards that work in that direction are Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon, but also a suite of mass removal spells that are there to thwart the creature beatdown plans. Chalice is played for X=1 most of the time, since most of Modern is revolving around 1-cmc spells. For this reason, there are no Path to Exiles or Lightning Bolts in the list, since those would be rather counterproductive once you have your Chalice soft lock online. The other important 'lock' piece is Blood Moon. If you played Modern at all, you probably know how troublesome and sometimes outright game-winning Blood Moon can be and this deck utilizes it to its fullest potential. With Simian Spirit Guide as a form of mana acceleration for both Blood Moon on turn two (or 1 with two Guides) and Chalice on turn one, this deck can cause a whole lot of trouble for most Modern decks.

Once one or both soft 'lock' pieces are deployed, the deck starts playing cards that are here to both clear anything that is still on the table and to win the game - planeswalkers. This particular list plays a full set of Nahiri, the Harbringer, three Gideon Jura, and a sprinkle of Chandra, Torch of Defiance and one Elspeth, Sun's Champion. What do all these four planeswalkers have in common? They all have built-in removal spells as well as some sort of a clock that can quickly take over or finish the game. Nahiri wouldn't be nearly as scary without Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, so there is one of those in the list, just to make sure there is a quick and efficient way to seal the game before your opponent can get out of the lock pieces you threw his way.

The rest of the deck is made out of removal spells, since Modern is mostly about killing with creatures these days. The aforementioned mass removal suite consists of three Anger of the Gods and a full playset of Wrath of God, but I feel one or two Wraths can be shaved. For spot removal there is only Lightning Helix and two Banishing Light, as explained, Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt are locked out by Chalice of the Void and thus omitted. Lightning Helix is the perfect card that is just great against aggressive strategies, and Banishing Light is a fine catch-all since Modern isn't too full of Enchantment removal anyway.

The mana base looks a bit clunky at first, but it is specifically made like this because well, you play Blood Moon, most of these lands will be Mountains anyway, that is why there are no Arid Mesas. Gemstone Caverns are here for the fact that the deck is somewhat weak to playing second, since it needs to deploy the 'lock' pieces before your opponent plays out his hand, so Caverns help a bit in that regard.

The sideboard is yet another straightforward affair - most sideboards in Modern seem to be this way. A couple of cards for each of the most popular matchups is the system this deck's pilot decided is the safest, so we have the following:

2 Blessed Alliance for Bogles, Infect and other aggressive strategies - this is also probably maindeckable.

3 Rest in Peace - Dredge is a huge menace these days so it has to be addressed, but there are also other graveyard decks, like Goryo's Vengeance etc.

3 Stony Silence - A nod to Affinity, the undying menace, but also to some odd decks like Lantern Control.

1 Anger of the Gods is for all creature matchups, in those situations you really want to have every mass removal you can, especially on the play.

1 Banishing Light  - Just a classic catch-all slot, I wouldn't bother with it, there are probably better cards.

2 Boil - There are some decks like Merfolk that do not care a whole lot about either Chalice or even Blood Moon - and they need to pay - Boil helps there a bit, but I still don't feel it does enough and might reconsider this slot.

2 Leyline of Sanctity - This is quite an important card, I would consider upping their number to up to four, since Burn is quite a tough matchup without it.

1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion - I guess this is here for control matchups where you need more win conditions and less mass removal.


R/W Prison might not feel like a 'real' deck, but due to a series of decent results it has been posting in Modern lately, it seems it is well positioned at the moment. Other than that, it is a very fun deck to play and a very frustrating deck to play against. If you are that kind of player, hop on the hate train and lock some people out while plus-ing your planeswalkers. If you already own Blood Moons and Chalices, the deck is pretty cheap, so why not try it out?

Good luck and have fun!

Stjepan Sučić
Stjepan Sucic

About Stjepan Sučić

Stjepan started his Magic career in 2003, and had some decent finishes over the years, including a World Magic Cup top 8, Pro Tour and Worlds top 32 finishes, and a GP top 8, with 61 pro points total.

During the summer months he is also a Magic Online grinder who you can easily find in the draft queues. Stjepan boasts a 74% win rate in his real life Magic career. When he is not playing Magic, Stjepan enjoys watching Starcraft and playing MOBA games.

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