Hurray and Huzzah, I hope all of you are as excited as I am to return to my favourite P.P.T.Q. season. Modern season. For me Standard has never been the place I want to play. I am a brewer at heart and I like to do ridiculous things as often as I can. Unfortunately the restrictive card pool selection that comes with standard really limits how well and often I am able to do that.
Over the last two months we’ve seen several modern Grands Prix with some interesting top eight results. The once Scoffed at KCI combo has received, not only, multiple Grand Prix top eights, but multiple Grand Prix wins as well. We’ve seen Tron return as well. Blue-white x control decks have been making appearances and Hollowed One has remained at the top of the competitive ladder for aggro. So the big question is what should you be looking for in this modern season.
At the time of me writing this according to mtgtop8 the meta is approximately forty five percent aggro, thirty two percent control, and 23% combo. The top played decks in aggro are Humans (3.6% of the meta), Red deck Wins (2.7% of the meta), with both Affinity and Hallowed one splitting the same slot (2.3% of the meta). The top Played control decks are Blue-White x (3.5% of the meta), Tron (2.2% of the meta) and Mardu Pyro (1.7% of the meta). The top played combo decks are Scapeshift, KCI, and Storm all making up less than 1% of the meta each.
Personally I think these numbers are heavily misleading. Humans is undisputed as the most “Popular” deck at the moment but I would heavily argue that it is not the “Best” deck in the format. KCI is one of the least played decks that I have listed however I would argue it reigns supreme in the current field. A large portion of Human’s record is from Magic online where the price of approximately four hundred and forty tix is cheaper than the approximately sixteen hundred usd price tag on the deck in paper. Compare this to KCI that costs almost the same online but almost none of it’s play is online. Reason being the deck takes forever to finish comboing and the chance of timing out is high. My theory here is KCI is unfairly strong in the current meta however is virtually unplayable online, and Human’s is putting up results on sheer numbers alone. I believe human’s has fallen into the same situation as Grixis Shadow formerly was where the deck isn’t actually tier one but so many people are playing it that one will eventually make it into the top 8. I’ll go into this more when I talk about each deck Individually
Brian Easson’s Humans SCG Modern Atlanta 01/07/18 9th Place
The goal here is to either jam turn one Noble Hierarch into turn 2 Mantis rider and ride that to victory, or, jam a vial and clog up the board with creatures. This coupled with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Meddling Mage to protect with your creatures from removal and Reflector Mage to keep opposing threats off your opponent’s field. Synergies with Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant can be deadly.
In the sideboard there is decent hate for most of your combo and aggro match ups. There is however very little to protect you in your control match up. Aether Vial has always been a strong solution to get around permission. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kitesail Freebooter, and Sin Collector can protect from permission.
Where the deck seems to run into problems is when they can’t stop permission, and wrath effects, while attempting to maintain pressure. The requirement for a critical mass of effects is too high. Where the deck really loses steam is when you opponent can jam a blood moon. Without a vial in play the deck is done.
AGGRO: BURN/RED DECK WINS
Edilson Silva’s Burn Grand Prix Sao Paulo 08/07/2018 Top 16
Burn has been a staple in Magic: The Gathering from the beginning and it still is. While the deck may no longer be Mono Red the plan has never changed. The plan has always been play some small, cheap creatures while holding up Lightning Bolt to keep them alive and kill your opponent.
The modern meta has been showing more control and combo strategies recently. This puts Burn into a good position. So many decks, Primarily KCI and Storm, try to play a critical number of threats at low cost. Eidolon of the Great Revel is a house against every single one of these decks. Even in the control match ups all their card selection will trigger it. With the printing of Skullcrack stopping life gain has never been easier. Since the printing of Monasstery Swiftspear getting extra value off every spell makes the deck even more powerful.
Post board we see a lot of strong anti hate cards such as Destructive Revelry, Relic of Progenitus, Exquisite Firecraft, Stony Silence, and Path To Exile. While there is a lot of hate cards existing for burn the deck is still very resilient to them. The recent decline in Black-Green x lists means they also don’t have to worry about Collective Brutality as much.
Like every deck it has some downsides. The biggest one being card advantage. Once you’re out of gas, that’s it. You are playing the top deck game. Unfortunately burn doesn’t top deck very well. Well timed life gain can be extremely problematic as well.
Vinicius Karam’s Affinity Grand Prix Sao Paulo 08/07/2018 Top 8
Affinity has been a modern staple since day one. Even before the modern began Affinity was a powerhouse in Extended and caused possibly the biggest banning in standard since Urza’s Block. The deck has been essentially unchanged since. The odd card here and there coming and going. Recently it has been changing a lot. Karn, Scion of Urza, The Antiquities War, and Hazoret, the Fervent, have been changing up the mainboard. The deck gets its’ power from both the sheer speed it can run out threats and it’s ability to make multiple uses out of the threats. Affinity is probably the most synergistic modern deck available. In recent months players have been trying different versions such as Eldrazi Bots with Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, and Hardened Scales Affinity which uses Hardened Scales to abuse counter generating triggers from Arcbound Ravager, Walking Ballista, and Steel Overseer. Affinity has likely the most amount of hate cards printed for it. Second only to grave based strategies. After Sideboarding they bring in Ghirapur Aethergrids as a backup win condition incase a stony silence shuts them down.
Javier Dominguez’s Jeskai Control Grand Prix Barcelona 01/07/2018 3rd Place
Control has been a deck strategy, like burn, ever since the beginning of the game. Up until recently control has never been particularly strong in modern, with the exception of Splinter Twin. With the unbanning of Jace, The Mind Sculptor blue mages got to work trying to make control work. And discovered Jace, The Mind Sculptor is oddly sub par in modern. Now that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has been printed Control has a much more reliable Planeswalker to fuel their plans. I feel the rise of Non interactive combo decks has laid the ground work for Blue-White x to rise back to the top. Recently showing 6 decks in the top 8 of Grand Prix Barcelona.
Post board they have access to the strongest colour for sideboard cards, white. With all the best hate cards on their side the deck is still problematic. Without access to spells like Brainstorm and Ponder card selection can be difficult. Search for Azcanta has helped to absolve this issue but work needs to still be done.
Yuri Ramsay’s Mono Green Tron Grand Prix Las Vegas 17/06/2018 2nd Place
The Urza lands, commonly referred to as Tron Lands, have seen play since just over a year after modern began. The biggest upside to this deck is the sheer power of playing Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine on turn three. Recovering from a power play like that can be extremely difficult. In your matches with plenty of hand disruption you generally top deck better than they do so even discard isnt a massive issue. Your issues come in when your opponent can keep you from “assembling tron” or can just keep up more permission than you can play threats.
CONTROL: MARDU PYROMANCER
Jose Echevarria’s Mardu Pyromancer Grand Prix Sao Paulo 08/07/18 1st Place
This deck rose to power among an affinity heavy field. it’s not hard to see why. The piles of removal hit every creature based deck hard. Main board blood moons leave other decks grasping for viable resources. Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler give you value on all your spells. All the hand disruption keeps most combo decks and other control lists down. The issue come in with it’s consistency. Faithless looting is a fantastic card but sometimes it can just punish you. Same thing can happen with Bedlam Reveler. Post board, just like Blue-White x you have access to all the most powerful sideboard hate cards in the game.
Drake Vasser’s Valakut SCG Atlanta 01/07/2018 2nd Place
The original Valakut/scapeshift builds we saw at the beginning of modern were Temur. In more recent years they’ve experimented with 4 colour variants, using Bring to Light, and a more streamlined red green version. The Red Green scapeshift, commonly called Titanshift, seems to have landed as the premier scapeshift build in modern.
The plan starts with putting seven lands in play. Casting scapeshift, sacrificing those 7 lands, then getting a Valakut, Molten Pinnacle and 6 mountains to shoot your opponents for 18. Post board you havee access to anti hate cards for your combo and some minor hate to stop your aggro and combo Opponnents from getting damage in. The deck can fall apart to bad draws but also can just win on the spot off of one draw.
COMBO: KRARK-CLAN IRONWORKS
Matt Nass’s KCI Grand Prix Las Vegas 17/06/2018
KCI Started off with the obnoxious combo deck known as Eggs. The deck rose to notoriety after Stanislav Cifka won Pro Tour Return To Ravnica with the deck.
The deck used Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star, and Terrarion to cycle through their deck then used Second Sunrise to get everything back from their graveyard. Into play to keep going. Eventually it would kill by looping Pyrite Spellbomb and Conjurer’s Bauble to shoot their opponent 2 damage at a time. Alternate win Conditions could be Emrakul, The Aeons Torn, Grapeshot or Banefire. Shortly after Second Sunrise got banned and the deck faded into relative obscurity.
With Kaladesh block Scrap Trawler got printed. This gave the deck new life in a better way of comboing. Personally I don’t think this deck will make it all the way through Modern season with a Banned and Restricted update looming just after the pro tour.
The deck starts off it’s engine the same way eggs used to with a Krark-Clan Ironworks and various “Eggs”. Now with scrap trawler every time we lose an artifact we get one back with a lower mana cost. This can turn Mox Opal into an awkward Black Lotus multiple times a turn. The loop ends by cycling Pyrite Spellbomb, Mox Opal, Myr Retriever, and Scrap Trawler to shoot your opponent to death with Pyrite Spellbomb.
Post board the deck runs almost exclusively anti hate cards and atleast 1 – 2 alternate win conditions. Matt Nass’s most recent Grand Prix win in Las Vegas used Ghirapur Aethergrid and a Wurmcoil Engine. Other lists use Emrakul, The Aeons torn, or Walking Ballista.
The deck is extremely resilient to most hate for the deck. Hand disruption often furthers the game plan far more than it hinders it and permission isn’t a big issue. The deck doesn’t really fall apart until your opponent can land either a Stony Silence and another hate card or multiple hate cards with different Mana Costs. Since most of the hate cards that hit the deck are two cost, Engineered Explosives tends to deal with them very quickly.
What Are We Looking For?
I think most of what you will be seeing is Blue-White X and Mardu Pyro through the first part of modern season. KCI should have a relatively low representation as the deck is extremely difficult to pilot. I’ve heard rumblings that Grixis Shadow may be making a return since it destroys most combo mach ups. Storm looks like it may be positioned to make another come back, especially if KCI gets banned. Blue-Red Blood Moon variants also seem to be starting to creep out of the woodwork as well. If KCI does get the ban I think the format will go even deeper into an aggro heavy format. If this happens maybe look into something that can capitalize off your opponent dumping their hands. Main board Anger of the Gods and Damnation could be very good.
Here’s looking forward to a healthy fun Modern Season.
Contacting Jeremy Brain; Do you have fan mail? Comments? Hate mail? Have a spicy brew idea you want featured? Are you looking to find a way to break a card into a format and aren’t sure where to start, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.