Fournier’s Goblin Guide: The BEST decks in Modern

Welcome to another edition of the Goblin Guide, where I take a look at what’s happened in tournament Magic over the last week and tell you exactly what you need to know going into the weekend’s events. It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, so while there’s not all that much going on in the Great White North, a Modern SCG Open is taking place in Indianapolis, so this week’s focus will be on the changing face of the Modern metagame.

To nobody’s surprise, I want to start off by bragging a little bit. When pitching this column, I was a little bit worried about the potential for people to be put off by major tournament results being way off from the prescriptions found in these columns. Magic is, after all, an infinitely complicated game, and while I definitely have a body of knowledge to draw from when it comes to arriving at metagame conclusions, I’m likely to be wrong sometimes, and results aren’t necessarily predictable in a variance-driven game. So, it flies in the face of logic that I’m somehow two for two on nailing tournament predictions. I’m excited to see how long I can keep up this streak, but for now, I’m going to bask in my own glory and get real cocky.

Golos absolutely dominated the SCG, with only a single other deck — Matt Nass’s Simic Food deck — making the Top 8 cut. I’m saving the meat of the Standard discussion for another article, but it’s safe to say that if you’re playing Standard and trying to win, you had better play a Golos variant. At least until the accelerated new ban list date, at which point you had probably better play an Oko deck. Love Standard these days, eh?

I’m gonna continue my bragging by pointing out that not only did the archetype I hyped up for Legacy win the Open, but I even got the player right! Sure, guessing that Daryl, Dilks and friends were going to win an SCG Open is hardly brave, but whatever, scoreboard. There was plenty of Temur Delver in the elimination rounds, and a notable absence of boring Stoneblade decks. With Delver pushing out the combo decks, you can probably guess where this is going: it’s time to break back into Depths variants to stomp on the fair decks.

[Deck Title=Fourth Place, Legacy Showdown, Golgari Depths – Matthew Dilks]
[Creatures]
4 Elvish Reclaimer
4 Vampire Hexmage
2 Dark Confidant
1 Sylvan Safekeeper
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Thoughtseize
3 Duress
3 Sylvan Scrying
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Crop Rotation
4 Mox Diamond
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Dark Depths
4 Thespian’s Stage
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Bayou
1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Karakas
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Sejiri Steppe
2 Wasteland
1 Ghost Quarter
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Bitterblossom
1 Sylvan Library
3 Pithing Needle
3 Surgical Extraction
3 Plague Engineer
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Assassin’s Trophy
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Moving onto Modern, we have a lot of action going on. I spoke last week about how [Card]Paradoxical Outcome[/Card] Urza decks were going to shake up the format, and three copies made the Top 8 cut, as expected, but they were built differently than I had expected. While the [Card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/Card] builds are definitely powerful, they were eschewed in favour of a Sultai build, featuring [Card]Veil of Summer[/Card], [Card]Collective Brutality[/Card] and [Card]Oko, Thief of Crowns[/Card] as the big sideboard cards of choice. Sure, they’re losing a bit of power by not having the [Card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/Card]/[Card]Emry, Lurker of the Loch[/Card] combo in their deck, but they’re making up for it with increased consistency, playing more [Card]Wishing Well[/Card]s and even a [Card]Wishclaw Talisman[/Card]. I’m not certain that this kind of consistency is necessarily mathematically superior to having additional combos in your deck, but it definitely reduces mulligan frequency, which is nice, I guess.

[Deck Title= Second Place, SCG Philly, Paradoxical Outcome – Roshan Eapen]
[Creatures]
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
2 Sai, Master Thopterist
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Engineered Explosives
2 Everflowing Chalice
4 Mishra’s Bauble
1 Wishclaw Talisman
3 Witching Well
1 Nexus of Fate
4 Paradoxical Outcome
3 Mox Amber
4 Mox Opal
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Snow-Covered Forest
6 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
2 Misty Rainforest
3 Polluted Delta
4 Prismatic Vista
1 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Pithing Needle
1 Fatal Push
1 Negate
3 Veil of Summer
1 Sai, Master Thopterist
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
3 Collective Brutality
1 Dead of Winter
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

I’m not convinced that either build of this deck is superior to the other, but the consensus among these elite players was to go with the Sultai version, and who am I to doubt that conclusion. I recall seeing someone on Twitter refer to [Card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/Card] as training wheels, and I couldn’t help but think that it was a silly way to think about a card that adds a turn two [Card]Splinter Twin[/Card] combo to your deck. Sure, it’s trivially easy to go off with Ascendancy, but writing something off just because it doesn’t make you feel like a brain genius by taking game actions is reductive. Sure, it was a joke, but the training wheels bit should really only apply in situations where the mocked card is actually unnecessary and doesn’t add power level to the deck. Tariq Patel would call [Card]Myr Retriever[/Card] in KCI training wheels because the deck didn’t actually need loops to do well over 20 damage to an opponent with [Card]Pyrite Spellbomb[/Card]s. He was right, and that slot could be used on cards with text, like [Card]Ensnaring Bridge[/Card]. Let’s not pretend that [Card]Wishing Well[/Card] is an inherently more powerful card than [Card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/Card], so let’s evaluate the cards on their own merits instead.

So regardless of how you decide to build your deck, I’m confident [Card]Paradoxical Outcome[/Card] is an excellent choice for a Modern event this weekend, but there’s one other thing I’d like to touch on before signing off for today: Amulet Titan. It’s back, baby. It has a similar speed to the non-Ascendancy Urza decks, is probably more consistent, and [Card]Blood Moon[/Card] is borderline unplayable in the current Modern metagame full of [Card]Snow-covered Island[/Card]s and [Card]Mox Opal[/Card]s. [Card]Castle Garenbrig[/Card] is a huge upgrade for the deck, and demands a slight retooling of the manabase, which King Dilks conveniently laid out on a silver platter for our enjoyment. A lot of people were freaking out about [Card]Once Upon a Time[/Card], and this is definitely the deck that’s gained the most from its printing. If you know how to play Amulet, you should probably play Amulet. If you need training wheels, well, there’s always Jeskai Ascendancy. Good luck this weekend!

[Deck Title= First place, SCG Philly, SCG Philadelphia, Amulet Titan – Matthew Dilks]
[Creatures]
4 Primeval Titan
1 Reclamation Sage
4 Sakura-Tribe Scout
4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Amulet of Vigor
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Once Upon a Time
1 Pact of Negation
4 Summoner’s Pact
4 Ancient Stirrings
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Forest
2 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Boros Garrison
2 Breeding Pool
2 Castle Garenbrig
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Field of the Dead
2 Gemstone Mine
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Gruul Turf
1 Radiant Fountain
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
4 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
3 Tolaria West
1 Vesuva
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Hornet Queen
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Ramunap Excavator
1 Tireless Tracker
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Dismember
2 Force of Vigor
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Field of the Dead
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]