How to win in Modern: Top 16 at MC Barcelona

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Fresh off my Top 16 at Mythic Championship Barcelona, I’m here to tell you how to win in this crazy format.

Good friends of mine like 40-card Ben Friedman are often posting on Twitter about how this format is all luck dependent and they are don’t enjoy it very much. To me you just need to find the right deck that fits in your niche and master it — that’s the key. Whether you are into control, aggro or combo I am here today to give you a Tier 1 option that can be customized to win almost any matchup.

Let’s start off with those of you who love control strategies. One of my besties, Shaheen Soorani, has been playing Esper or Azorious for the better part of a decade. To top it off he won the recent Team Trios Open in Philadelphia with his latest iteration of Azorius Control which he then piloted again in Barcelona:


Now much of Shaheen’s list has become fairly stock, utilizing some newer cards in Dovin’s Veto, Prismatic Vista, Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler. His real spice lies in the sideboard Geist of Saint Trafts and the addition of the fourth Wrath of God effect. These slots are usually occupied by Baneslayer Angel and some other utility cards. I like that these changes give the deck an alternative route to victory, which of course gives you an edge when it comes time to sideboard.

In contrast to Shaheen’s deck there’s also another way to take this archetype in deckbuilding — a small snow theme. Mostly for On Thin Ice which improves the decks removal spells in the early game, but Astrolabe also helps reduce the effect of Blood Moon, casting Cryptic Command becomes smoother with all the Field of Ruin’s in the deck and nicely smooths out your early draws. Which version is better I can’t say for certain, but if you haven’t tried them both to find out you probably should before playing in a big event.

Shaheen didn’t do so hot with a 2-3 record in Constructed on Day 1 in Barcelona, but many players utilized alternative strategies to some success. Players like Guillaume Wafo-Tapa were in Top 8 contention even going into the last two rounds of the tournament. Wafo utilized Esper and mixed in some of the new cards like Kaya’s Guile for an extra avenue of combatting the graveyard-based format known as Modern.

Now if you’re newer to Modern you probably shouldn’t start with a control deck. I would be more inclined to refer you to a more aggressive strategy. To be honest in a lot of ways that’s what this format is all about. One of the decks that’s come a long way with all the new additions to Modern is Goblins. You heard me right, these little guys are back on the menu and they’re not very nice. When Goblin’s stormed onto the scene with Modern Horizons they were crushing the MTGO leagues early on, now while that may have slowed down a bit with the format adjusting. They are still primed to be an excellent choice in most metagames.


Above you’ll see the latest 5-0 the deck has put up online, but it’s definitely a non-traditional build for the new goblin menace. This list doesn’t play Aether Vial! Instead it opts to attack fast, get card advantage, and tear apart it’s opponent’s hand with Inquisition and Thoughtseize. If you’re going to pick up this deck beware Plague Engineer post-board, it’s important to position yourself with the ability to reduce the number of x-1 creatures you have in your deck.  Don’t cut the Leylines unless you want to be a dog to Hogaak. Me personally I prefer Aether Vial, but make sure you test out both versions again to find the right build for you.


Jim Davis was in our testing crew and immediately jumped on the back of the deck early on. Unfortunately, they let him down against the Hogaak (soon to be banned) menace. This deck did prove to be quite powerful, but loses to much in the graveyard dimension we find ourselves in when playing this format. Excellent choice for a post-Hogaak apocalypse however, so pickup your cards and get ready for this deck to rise!

Lastly, we get to my favorite archetype… Combo!!! And the deck that I ultimately decidedc on for the Pro Tour. Hopefully you’ve been watching my stream at Twitch.tv/EliKassis. If so, you have probably seen me piloting 5-Color Urza Snow. The pieces involved include Thopter Foundry, Sword of the Meek and Urza, Lord High Artificer. These cards combine to give you infinite life, infinite Thopters and infinite blue mana.


I made a lot of changes to the stock lists I saw running around before Barcelona. Most notably I added green to the manabase for more versatile answers, and I think that should be the standard moving forward. Splashing in this deck is so trivial due to the colour-fixing artifacts that you already want to play, that having access to something like Assassin’s Trophy is a huge upgrade in my opinion.

The sideboard answers for Leyline of the Void, Stony Silence, Rest in Peace and other permanent-based hate is one of the reason I prefer this splashy version of the deck. In addition to it being a powerful deck, it has a lot of resilience and gets to play hate pieces that can trump other decks in Game 1, catching them unprepared. It’s pretty hard to understate how powerful that is in a format as diverse as Modern.

This deck has a decent Game 1 against the Hogaak menace and a very close to 50% matchup post-board, usually resulting in 2-1 wins. It is very hard to boast that with any other top tier deck, which is part of the reason I’m so high on Urza. Azorious Control and Eldrazi Tron are your tougher matchups, but those are both winnable and much better with the green splash. The burn decks are perhaps the deck that gives this deck the most trouble so if you’re local metagame is packing Lava Spikes you’ll probably want to stay clear.

The first thing I did after the tournament was revise the deck I played of course. If we stop learning then we are doomed in this game. 


Another option we have is green leaving and white returning. This allows Thopter Foundry to be cast a little easier, we get to play baby Teferi again, and Wear // Tear continues to be a powerhouse that doesn’t advance our opponents mana like Assassin’s Trophy would. With white you’d still be enacting the gameplan I had at the PT of emphasizing the ability to interact with hate, but just taking a different approach.

In the sideboard I have never liked Sai, Master Thopterist. But, I do think I stumbled onto what should be in that slot after also disliking Monastery MentorBazaar Trademage He actually does quite a bit between blocking, sifting, and pressuring Karn.

If you tune in to my stream on Tuesday night (July 30th), you’ll get a viewing of my Azorious Urza Snow build as well. It’s sleaker, leaner and ready to rumble with a few new pieces of tech. If you want the list you’ll have to tune in however and afterwards you can of course reach out to me for it as well. I appreciate you all tuning in, feel free to leave feedback, suggestions, or just general tomfoolery and we can have a pleasant conversation anytime!