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A smart person would probably tell you to just play Death's Shadow this weekend. A smarter person would tell you to play Eldrazi Tron. And the smartest person in the entire world would probably tell you to play side events. Yes, I'm talking about SCG Richmond, the site of this weekend's Modern Open. If you haven't registered yet, make sure you do so now. The bad beat of showing up to the Open and not being able to play is something I see all too often.
Also, make sure to get a good night's sleep and drink a lot of water throughout the day! Pro tips!
Somewhere in the night, you can hear the sound of my career dying.
While Modern is usually a volatile format, full of hostile, linear strategies, we've seen a few standouts rise to the top over the last few months. Those two decks are Grixis Death's Shadow and Eldrazi Tron. It seems like one of those two decks ends up on top of every Modern event, and for good reason. They're great.
I'm no expert on Eldrazi Tron, so I'll leave that to the likes of Todd Stevens and company, but I do have a lot to say about Death's Shadow. Unfortunately, I've written about that deck a ton already, and I'm not even sure how good it will be this weekend. It seems like, every tournament, more and more decks are showing up to put a beating on the "Big Two."
And yet somehow they still keep winning...
Aside from the Team Constructed event in Atlanta a few weeks ago, where Todd Stevens was in the driver's seat with G/W Company (aka Value Town), there haven't been too many decks in Modern that could keep up with the raw power of Eldrazi Tron or the efficiency of Death's Shadow. Either the mana advantage gained by the Eldrazi Tron deck would topple you, or you could cast a bunch of spells that were more expensive and less powerful than the Grixis Death's Shadow decks. So what deck(s) can beat both of these strategies?
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 2 Etched Champion
- 2 Master of Etherium
- 3 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 4 Vault Skirge
Call it Rock'em Sock'em Robots or whatever, but Affinity is a deck that boasts very good matchups against the two best decks in the format. On top of that, Affinity can just roll people who don't have a lot of hate for it. The speed of Cranial Plating topped with the annoying invulnerability of Etched Champion makes for some lopsided games. And while decks like Dredge were on the rise, Affinity was given a bit of breathing room from people out of the sideboard.
At the moment, Affinity is on people's radar, so choosing to play Affinity might actually end up being a bad idea. Cards like Stony Silence can be incredibly difficult to overcome, but it isn't impossible. Plus, they might just never draw that card. If you put up insanely good numbers in pre-sideboard games, you only have to get a little lucky to win one of the next two. There are also draws out of Affinity that can beat hands that are all-in on Stony Silence (especially on the play).
At the moment, it seems like most people are sporting Galvanic Blast over Thoughtcast, and I completely agree with that direction. Death's Shadow decks often deal themselves four to ten points of damage, and all you need is a little chip here and there to finish them off with a Galvanic Blast. As for the rest of the decks in Modern, Galvanic Blast can act as a split card. In most scenarios, you're just going to kill your opponent with the big burn spell after you've hit them for quite a bit of damage. In other spots, you're going to use Galvanic Blast to buy yourself a bit of time.
I know that removal is pretty heavy in the field at the moment, which usually means that Thoughtcast would be a better card for the current metagame, but I think you need speed more than resilience at the moment. Galvanic Blast gets them dead, where Thoughtcast just prolongs the game in the face of removal. My gut tells me that Galvanic Blast is where you want to be right now, but I could easily see a shift toward more removal-based decks if Jeskai Control continues to put up solid numbers. Remember when Nahiri, the Harbinger was running rampant? If Jeskai starts to surge in those numbers again, then Thoughtcast will likely be the fallback plan.
As for Etched Champion versus Master of Etherium, I honestly have no idea. It really bugs me that people can't just choose to play four of one and zero of the other. Like Galvanic Blast versus Thoughtcast, this struggle has been present in the archetype for as long as I can remember. While Master of Etherium is better by itself, Etched Champion can win games that no other card could. And when you combine Cranial Plating with Etched Champion, you start to understand why someone would choose to play it over Master of Etherium.
I, for one, hate playing against Etched Champion, so my instinct is to always suggest a max-out on those. But I also recognize that Etched Champion is embarrassing against Eldrazi Tron and the mirror. Maybe a split is correct, but it just looks wrong. It feels wrong. But I honestly don't have an answer for you.